Are we still in garage land? The last four essays have very much been so.

I find this a particularly ambiguous image. Who has stacked the wood against the garage? What does the wood consist of? Is it to be collected or is it to be set fire to? Why is the painting called
The Old Religions?

George Shaw. The Old Religions, 2017. Enamel on canvas, 46 x 55cm

Before trying to answer these questions, I suspect I need to know more about the location. And on this occasion it doesn't take me long to track it down. As the next image shows, the site is not far from those two other suburban sites, focussing on houses in Tile Hill streets, that are part of 'The Lost of England'. The buildings of England, shall we say. In other words, we may indeed have emerged from the dark garage phase of Shaw's 'Lost of England' work!


And while I'm at it, here are these three sites (marked in orange, just to keep things chromatically fluid) in relation to the rest of the Lost of England sites, fourteen in all. As you can see, the three 'suburban' sites (and The Old Religions in particular) are the closest to the 'home' site. That is, two paintings whose viewpoints are from within a single house, the childhood home of George Shaw, a pair of paintings I plan to leave until the end of this exercise.


I'm so glad I've done the above diagram. I am going to make extensive use of it. But for now let's cut to the chase. That bit of grass where the wood is stacked in The Old Religions does not belong to any garden, but is the responsibility of the council. This is a view of the site from November, 2012. Note that the householder is scrupulous in keeping his bins within the limits of his own property.


And below is a view of the same spot from 2008. Curiously, a chopped down tree has been dumped in exactly the same place as the wood pile in Shaw's picture. And it looks as if it's been lying there for a while.


Let's get the images together to confirm that it's the same scenario.


I just don't think that anyone else would have put the chopped down tree right alongside the garage except the owner of that property. Likewise, I don't think anyone would have piled the wood against the garage except that particular house owner.

OK, let's return to another aspect of the painting's ambiguity. Why is it called The Old Religions? That's not the title of a book or other cultural item, as far as I'm aware. Nor is it a recognised phrase, according to Google. So let's analyse from first principles, as it were. I would suggest that the old religions were Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc. Old-established, certainly. On the way out? Possibly.

But in the context of suburban Britain, what are the old religions? Keeping one's house and garden tidy? Acknowledging boundaries between oneself and the neighbours? But does that help us here? Well, let's see. It looks as if the wood is from a number of sources. There is a panel or more of fencing. There are some longer pieces of wood. There is one very solid piece that might have been part of a roof.

George Shaw. The Old Religions, 2017. Enamel on canvas, 46 x 55cm

It looks as if it's been piled up for a fire. But you don't build a fire against a garage. Not your own garage and certainly not your neighbour's.

Nevertheless, it could be that preparations are on hand for November the 5th. With permission, wood is being stacked there for the time being. But come Guy Fawkes night it will be taken into the middle of the patch of grass and set fire to.

"Remember, remember the fifth of November,
Gunpowder treason and plot.
We see no reason why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot!"

"Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, 'twas his intent
To blow up the King and the Parliament
Three score barrels of powder below
Poor old England to overthrow."

"By God's providence he was catch'd
With a dark lantern and a burning match
Holler boys, holler boys, let the bells ring
Holler boys, holler boys, God save the King!

The plot this year centred on the proroguing of Parliament. The Commons was just back after its summer recess when Boris Johnson announced that parliament would be suspended for five weeks, ostensibly so that he could come up with a Queen's Speech and the main political parties could have their autumn conferences.

The opposition parties and the remain lobby realised that Johnson was clearing the way to negotiate a deal with Europe by October 17, or leave without a deal on October 31, with no parliamentary scrutiny. Sure, the House of Commons would be back sitting on October 15, but that wouldn't give it time to stop the government. So, with the help of the Speaker of the House of Commons, a bill was hastily put forward by Hillary Benn (Labour MP) and passed by parliament. The Benn bill states that if no deal is agreed by October 19, then the government would have to ask Europe for an extension of the UK's membership.

The proroguing of parliament went ahead but was stopped on September 24 when the Supreme Court ruled, by eleven senior judges to nil, that the prorogation was unlawful. MPs duly returned to the House of Commons the next day.

Meanwhile, Boris Johnson was trying to goad the other parties into calling a vote of no confidence which would have led to a general election. However, it was thought that Johnson would have then delayed the date of the new election until after 31st October (it would have been in his power to do so) by which time the UK would have slipped out of the European Union, notwithstanding the Benn Act.

Nigel: "So you're stymied."

Boris: "Not at all."

Nigel: "First I'm going to punish those Supreme Court judges. All eleven of them are in that garage and it's about to get very hot in there."

Nigel: "You're joking."

George Shaw. The Old Religions, 2017. Enamel on canvas, 46 x 55cm

Boris: "Yes, indeed."

Nigel: "So what are you going to do?"

Boris: "Wait and see."

Nigel: "Commentators are suggesting you're trying to manipulate Europe into not offering the UK an extension of its membership. Perhaps by getting Hungary to break ranks from the 27 EU countries and vote against it."

Boris: "Alas, they are entirely dependent on Germany's goodwill."

Nigel: "Or by making it clear to Europe that the UK will use its veto to disrupt all other business."

Boris: "There are no important votes coming up for months. The EU would assume that by granting an extension, a general election in the UK would be the inevitable consequence, and that the Tories - me having not kept my word about leaving on 31st October - would do badly in it."

Nigel: "So what's the plan?"

Boris: "To leave on 31st October. Come what may. Do or die in a ditch."

Nigel: "But how are you going to bring that off in the face of the Benn bill?"

Boris: "I couldn't possibly say."

Nigel: "Oh, go on! It's your old friend, Nigel."

Boris: "All I can do is urge you to study what's in front of your nose."

George Shaw. The Old Religions, 2017. Enamel on canvas, 46 x 55cm

Nigel: "It's not an Irish thing is it? Even I wouldn't put at risk all that's been achieved through the Good Friday Agreement?"

Boris: 'Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, 'twas his intent
To blow up the Taoiseach and the Parliament
Three score barrels of powder below
Poor old Ireland to overthrow.'"

Nigel: "You're joking again."

Boris: "I couldn't possibly say."

Actually, I think Boris is bluffing. And so does David Allan Green who has been keeping many people informed about Brexit via his Twitter feed. Here is his latest:


I hope David Allen Green is right. I hope bullshit gets its come-uppance. It looks like that way for now, but there is no way we Remainers (there, I've said it) can rest easy. I feel like crawling into the space between woodpile and garage wall. I think I would feel safe there, hidden from the bullshit and the bollocks. Is that what I'm supposed to think? Crikey, I'm baffled on all counts right now.

"We might crawl, under the bracken." Uh-oh, I know who sang that.

'The Lost of England' continues here.


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.