THE LOST OF ENGLAND:

POLLING DAY




I was pleased to find the location of this painting, b
ecause, let's face it, there are not many clues to it.

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George Shaw. Polling Day, 2017. Enamel on canvas, 92 x 121cm

I remain particularly pleased, as it is a location within the logo that's on the top left of this and every other page on my site. The little guy has just walked past the garage door to his left. But I suppose I have to prove that.

In the aerial view below, the red garage door is the one with the flat, milky green, corrugated iron roof. Close consideration of the concrete right in front of the door provides an exact match.

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I've also had a look at the four or five, very thin, TV aerials that can be seen rising above the garage from the houses behind, and matched them to the ones you can see by taking the Google Street View up Empire Road in front of the row of houses.

Parallel to Empire Road is Hawthorn Lane on the edge of Tile Hill wood. There used to be a row of garages in front of where the red-doored garage now stands. And Shaw has painted this patch of land and its old garages on several occasions. I suspect that the lane, which runs north-south, used to be a favourite haunt of Shaw's. As the next shot shows, the woods seem full of mystery.

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The large painting shown below was made in 2010, when Shaw was selected for the British Art Show and knew his work would be displayed in major public galleries. The red garage door can be seen on the right.

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George Shaw. The Blocked Drain, 2010: Humbrol enamel on board. 147x198cm

Another painting showing the red box opposite and along from the red garage door is called Landscape with Dogshit Bin, but as that doesn't show the garage I won't reproduce it here.

Okay, so now we know exactly where we are. It seems like a significant space for Shaw. Did something once happen to him here? I can't take that angle into the picture. How then can I do it justice?

On one side of the door, the initials LW have been sprayed on. Possibly at the same time the fading Anarchy symbol was put there. Maybe the more prominent 'Fuck You' was written at the same time, though I've no close-up photo of the door to compare with the painting.

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George Shaw. Polling Day, 2017. Enamel on canvas, 92 x 121cm

It's another of the blocked off - 'no way forward' - pictures of which there are many in Shaw's Tile Hill ouevre. Here are a few, from left to right and top to bottom: The Back that Used to Be the Front, The Same Old Crap, Shut Up and No More Returns.

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Closed shops, demolished library and demolished pub. 'No future, no future, no future for you.' Is that what the Anarchy symbol on the red garage door is about? An embittered citizen feels that the government has failed him or her or their Tile Hill community?

The painting under consideration is called Polling Day which surely gives a clue as to what's going on. As the picture was painted in 2017, the election referred to may be the one on June 8, 2017, which Theresa May called in the hope of increasing a Conservative majority in the Commons in order to more easily get her Brexit programme through Parliament.

Or Shaw may be referring to the 2016 referendum itself, which, in retrospect, was used by the electorate as an opportunity to express its dissatisfaction with government in general, eight years into an austerity programme. Remain or leave? Which sounds more anarchic? LEAVE.

Okay, time for a change of register in order to take our engagement with this picture a bit further in this politically charged summer-autumn of 2019.


There's an important meeting about to get underway in the garage. Who between? Nigel and an interviewer. Not Boris? No, not Boris, he is busy with his advisers in Downing Street. Silently I approach the double door so that I can listen in.

"How are you, Nigel?"

"Very well indeed."

"You're looking trim and fit."

"Well, you know, clean living. It’s a campaign dividend."

"Off the booze?"

"Not quite."

"There’s an election to win isn’t there?"

"There’s a lot to do. 63 days to go now until 31 October. A new prime minister who, I have to admit, has started off with great energy, optimism and said some wonderful things. In fact I thought several times I was listening to myself in the European election campaign. Infrastructure spending, mobile phone connectivity…"

"Boris has nicked all your best lines!"

"Yes, but he's got to deliver. It’s all very well marching the army up to the top of the hill…"

"If he delivers no-deal Brexit by the beginning of November, you’re out of a job and back to the fishing!"

"If he delivers a no deal Brexit, you and I will come to the Black Prince for a proper night. And they’ll kick us out at dawn. I’ll be delighted if he delivers it. But the problem is that isn’t what he's trying to do and I’m surprised how few commentators have understood what his plan is."

"What is his plan?"

"It’s dead simple."

"What is it then?"

"Pour me
a drink first."

I take the opportunity to step back. Just a few paces. So that I can take stock and IMAGINE…

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Amalgam of a painting - Polling Day, by George Shaw - and a print by Jeremy Deller.

Ha! That's just wishful thinking on my part. No, it's not wishful thinking. I have no problem with Nigel Farage, free man. He would appear to be good-natured, intelligent and articulate. If I did want him locked up (which I don't!) it would be so that he couldn't pursue his destructive policies as effectively as he has been doing.

Okay, back to the eavesdropping. Ear to the door as Nigel holds forth.

“Boris makes the Queen’s Speech on October 14th. He announces in that speech a whole load of popular/populist policies. Schools, policing, infrastructure, etc. And he’ll say that he can only do these things, he can only bring the UK into the 21st century and put this plan into place, if we get Brexit delivered by the 31st October. And he’ll say he’ll be off in three days time to the European summit where he's going to achieve a huge negotiating victory because Monsieur Barnier has agreed some significant changes to the backstop. And he's going to say that with the backstop removed in its current form, the rest of the agreement is satisfactory."

“So that's the plan.”

"He’ll come back claiming a great victory. And he’ll say to the House of Commons.
‘Now, if you vote for this Brexit we can go on with our wonderful modernisation program. If you don’t vote for it, there will be no Brexit.’ That’s what he’ll do, And then if he loses, he’ll call a general election. And he’ll say ‘I’m on the side of the people. It’s parliament that has robbed us of Brexit.' That’s the plan. And here’s the problem. The problem is that the deal is…the…worst…deal…in…history."

“Because?”

“Because it would leave us locked in to European policy. It’s very difficult to see how we would ever leave the Customs Union even without the backstop. The very clever way in which the political declaration links back to the withdrawal agreement. I mean, the £39 million is the least of my concerns. It’s all the rest.”

“Such as.”

“We'd be subject to the European Court of Justice for at least eight years. Free trade deals would be out of the question. You wait. President Trump, my friend the President…”

“Really?”

“I was with him the day Boris became PM. And he was right about one thing. That Boris has brought energy, much needed energy, to the job. But one of the reasons that Trump is saying all these good things about Boris is that he believes he's going to deliver a no deal Brexit on the 31 October and that we can move ahead with a big trade deal."

“What did Trump say when he heard the news about Boris being PM?”

“He was very pleased. Very, very pleased. But once he realises that he wants to sign up to something that would mean we couldn’t do any trade deal because of a transition stage lasting eighteen months, probably extended for another two years which would mean it would come about towards the end of his second term as president, he would go cold on the whole thing.”

“ A waste of Trump’s goodwill.”

“Yes. So my objective now is two-fold. Firstly, to prepare the Brexit party for a general election. We’ve got 600-odd candidates.”

“No fruit cakes amongst them, I trust.”

“As a group, they're amazing. When I brief them of my second objective and say to them that they must be ready to stand down, they applaud. And that is remarkable. They are not in this to be MPs. They are not in it for careers in politics. They want to get Brexit finished. And they know that if the Conservative party is left to its own devices it will never do it. So let’s talk big. If Boris decides that the best thing to do is go for a clean break Brexit, then the Brexit candidates would stand down. Here for example, in Coventry South, the standing MP is Labour and the main challenge is from the Conservative candidate. We would stand down here. We would only stand in those seats that the Tories
couldn’t win."

"How many seats do you think you’d get if there was a snap election on November the 1st?”

"I don’t know. But let me tell you what our election strategy is. If Boris goes for a miserable European treaty - even without the backstop - we will fight him in every single seat in the country and the Conservatives…will…not…win…the…election. All right?

“You’d let Corbyn in? How is that a good thing?”

“No, no,no. Brexit is the defining issue of our times. The Conservatives will not win a majority if we fight against them. But, that is not what I want to do. I want Brexit to happen. I want Boris to go for a clean break Brexit. And then we will give him whatever support we can. We will put country before party and support him. And do you know something? With our support, together with his support…I’m saying to you that if Boris does the right thing and we get behind him, not only will he get a big majority, he'll be a hero.”

I sense the interview winding up. Feeling that the pair may emerge from the garage at any moment, I beat a retreat. Not too far away cos I want to think something through.

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George Shaw.Landscape with Dogshit Bin, 2010. Enamel on canvas.

Farage thinks Brexit is the defining political issue of the day.

He thinks that Britain is overpopulated and that we need to control our borders in order to limit immigration.

He thinks that without leaving Europe - with Europe's policy of free movement with the European Union - the UK's population will just keep going up.

I don't agree with that analysis. Where I live in Scotland I can walk five miles without meeting another person, and I do that on a daily basis. Here in Tile Hill there are green spaces, spaces to breathe and think, work and play.

A stand-alone, free enterprise Britain is being posited just when global warming is the biggest issue that needs to be confronted by the international community. According to the news, the Amazon forest is ablaze right now. China, America, Russia and Europe have all got to get together and agree a way forward for the world's sake. China, America, Russia and Europe; or CARE for short. At the moment Europe's is the most sensible voice. But it could do with being stronger. Britain gives it a bit of extra clout. Britain, France and Germany speaking as one on the global stage.

I'm struggling to put this into words. But I know that Nigel and his interviewer have left the building so I return to the garage.

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George Shaw. Polling Day, 2017. Enamel on canvas, 92 x 121cm. Detail.

What I have to do is draw a big, fresh, black circle with my spray can. And inside that draw an hourglass - two horizontal lines joined by a cross. Sounds simple, but can I make a good job of it? Wish me luck.



'The Lost of England' continues here.

Read more about Extinction Rebellion
here.




Acknowledgements

The images of George Shaw’s works on this site are copyright the artist. The artist is represented by Anthony Wilkinson.

'The Lost of England' was an exhibition of George Shaw paintings at Maruani Mercier in autumn, 2017.

The interview is based on the interview Nigel Farage gave with Christopher Hope, published on August 29 2019.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ql4_Ug8NSoU