The next significant showing of George Shaw paintings was in Northern Ireland. Throughout August of 2010, a dozen pictures - each painted that year - were on show at Void, a contemporary art gallery in Derry, not far from where George Shaw’s mother hails from, though across the border. The curator of ‘Looking for Baz, Gaz, Shaz and Daz’ was Gregory McCartney and all the paintings were of a new size, 56x74.5cm.

Void’s
website gives a tantalising idea what the show looked like. And that’s where some of the images that follow were taken from. Here’s three of the Derry dozen:

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George Shaw, installation at Void gallery, 2010

The paintings are full of barriers. Fences, walls and closed gates. Political or personal? There’s a sort of orange versus green going on in the next image. Or is there? Perhaps not. In the press release, the artist states:

‘As I slowly fail to recognise myself in this landscape, so I begin to see it as it is and to begin slowly to say good-bye. For want of nothing better to do, I am painting places as they become nothing, made up simply of time and longing. How quickly do we make the journey from first love to last words.’

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George Shaw, There Goes Everybody, 2010: Humbrol enamel on board. 56x74.5cm

George Shaw would like to pay his regards to the children that go to the school he once attended, as one old human being to other, younger ones. But he doesn’t understand their language. Besides, they have all run off into the present. There goes everybody! To help George out, I have a stab at translating what’s been written on the brick wall that dominates the left side of his painting. Alas, I realise the words are a bit insulting to both of us. But if I can take it, then so can George. So I make my translation available to the world: ‘Two hulking great pieces of Twentieth Century shit are freaking us out.’

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George Shaw. The Assumption, 2010: Humbrol enamel on board. 56x74.5cm

Above is a view of George Shaw’s Catholic primary school, Our Lady of the Assumption. It’s been pictured while facing in the same direction as the glorious Ash Wednesday: 8.30am, and just along the street from it. But this time the image doesn’t seem to be about the sun bathing the artist in a golden - perhaps, nostalgic - light, but the school failing to invite the middle-aged artist into its grounds so that George can explore the recesses of his memory.

In the picture below, standing outside the school premises, from left to right are Gaz, Baz, Shaz and Daz. I mean, from left to right are, George Shaw, Anthony Wilkinson (George’s dealer), Maolliosa Boyle (Void’s manager) and Laurence Sillars (Baltic’s curator). Half of the pictures in the Derry show go on to be part of the George Shaw retrospective that was seen at Baltic in 2011. So the evening may have involved some forward planning. I expect it was a good night for all concerned. An examination of the past; a looking forward to professional success; and a few drinks downed in the company of like-minded folk.

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George Shaw, installation at Void Gallery, Derry. 2010. Photo by

The paintings in the following installation shot are amongst those that made it to the Baltic show. And, thanks to a Baltic Bites video, there is a public record of what George Shaw has said about these two images in particular.

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George Shaw, installation at Void gallery, 2010

First, the painting on the right, which is of a red telephone box sited beside what appears to be an electricity sub-station. When George was growing up, telephone boxes on the estate were important because his family didn’t have a phone in the house. That seems bizarre to him these days, when he’s walking around with a phone in his pocket. The last time George saw this particular box being used, it was by someone on a mobile. He adds: “It’s called The Time Machine. It stays solid. The rest of the estate seems to fall apart, but this resolutely defies time.”

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George Shaw. The Time Machine, 2010: Humbrol enamel on board. 56x74.5cm

“If the box is somehow left there,” muses George, “Come the apocalypse, people will wonder what it was for.”

I’m already wondering what the electricity sub-station is for. I mean, why is it located hard up against the telephone box? Does one get a better signal while standing in the telephone box or within the perimeter of the sub-station? Questions, questions. Only the kids of today will know the answers. Always remembering that the youngsters of today are the oldsters of tomorrow.

The other Void painting that Shaw talks about at the Baltic is the one below, a view of the Hawthorne Tree. The painter introduces it as a pub that he knew too well. It’s also the pub where he last had a drink with his father. The painting has been made from a photo taken shortly after a fire that removed the roof and caused the old pub to be boarded up.

“Another thing gone,” laments George. In a sense, he admits, it’s a pathetic fallacy that he’s involved with. The assumption that this building, the landscape, the climate, bits of concrete, reflect his emotional life...

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George Shaw, The Age of Bullshit, 2010: Humbrol enamel on board. 56x74.5cm

George is obviously moved by the sight of this painting, and doesn’t walk away from it. Instead, he observes that this is a place he’s utterly familiar with. He has known things like this pub since he could first see or think or walk. And they’re just being removed from the face of the earth without anybody saying anything. “But then,” he admits, “why would anybody say anything, it’s just a shitty old pub.” But the thought of things gone, like the ending of stories, the ending of a good night out, is a bit of a bummer for George. “Oh, has it come to an end?” he says wistfully.

As you can see from the image below, Google has come up with a fair copy of
The Age of Bullshit. Though actually the photo was taken in 2008, before the destruction and the fencing-off which happened in October of that year.

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©2013 Google

Below is one that George did earlier. So, no, the pub has not just disappeared in a puff of smoke. The good night out, the work celebration, the final drink with beloved parent, have not just fucked off without trace. They’re commemorated by The Hawthorne Tree and The Age of Bullshit. Well, no, they’re commemorated by the former. The latter exists as a lament that there will be no more weddings, or birthdays, or good nights out, or heartfelt goodbyes. At least not experienced within those four walls.

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George Shaw. The Hawthorne Tree, 2001: Humbrol enamel on board. 92x121cm

Actually, they’re also commemorated in the publication What I did this Summer. Because in the middle of that book there is a glossy fold-out, which - when it’s folded out to its full extent - presents a ‘Scenes from the Passion’ triptych that complements the above triptych, the threesome in the book being: The New Star, The Hawthorne Tree and The Unicorn. The paintings were done between 2001 and 2003, perhaps inspired by the demise of the Woodsman (previously called The New Star), which was damaged by fire in 2000.

There used to be five pubs in Tile Hill, now there is only one. Not sure where Shaw says that, but he says it somewhere. Here is a map of three of them, a third triptych. From left to right and north to south: The Hawthorne Tree (site of), the Black Prince and Woodsman (site of). Cheers! Bottoms up! Down the hatch!

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Imagery ©2013 DigitalGlobe, GeoEye, Getmapping plc, Infoterra Ltd & Bluesky, The Geoinformation Group, , Map data ©2013 Google

As I’ve suggested, two of those three are sites awaiting redevelopment, at least they were in 2011. So if you’re looking for Baz, Gaz, Shaz, or Daz you’ll probably find them sitting round a window table in the Black Prince. If you follow me, I’ll introduce you to the modern-day equivalent of Quince, a carpenter, Bottom, a weaver, Flute, a bellows mender, and Snug, a joiner. Mind the stumbling block...

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George Shaw. Scenes from the Passion: Christmas Eve (detail), 1999.

Daz (looking at his half-empty glass): “Oh, for one half-decent pint of ale!”
Gaz: “You used to get a decent pint down the Hawthorne Tree.”
Shaz: “Pull the other one, Gaz. Never a real ale served in that place. Just kegged fizz like this crap.”
Gaz: “What about the Unicorn?”
Shaz: “Oh, you are joking, aren’t you? Tell me you are pulling my plonker, Gaz.”
Gaz: “I’m not pulling your plonker. You’ve got a wife to do that for you, Shaz, as we’re all well aware.”
Baz (with arms widespread):
O kiss me through the hole of this vile wall.
Shaz (aside to Daz and Gaz): “It does my head in when he goes off on one.”
Baz:
I kiss the wall’s hole, not your lips at all.”
Shaz: “
Put something on the jukebox, quick!”
Daz/Gaz: “Done.”
Shaz: “Anything but...”

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George Shaw. Scenes from the Passion: The Black Prince (detail), 1999.

“Two swans, in front of his eyes.
Coloured balls, in front of his eyes...”




Acknowledgement: The images of George Shaw’s works on this site are copyright the artist. Many of them appear courtesy of Wilkinson Gallery, photography by Peter White.