Here is how this diptych was shown at Maruani Mercier, Brussels, in autumn, 2017.

George Shaw. Two Views from a Teenager's Bedroom, 2017. Enamel on canvas, each 46 x 55cm.

These paintings are not typical of those that make up 'The Lost of England'. I would suggest that they are more personal than political. Nevertheless, I've produced the map below which shows how the paintings fit in with the rest of 'The Lost of England' geographically. Forgive the laboured rainbow effect.


The rainbow arcs over an empire of shite? No, not at all, that's just a perspective chosen at random. Honest.

An interview between George Shaw and Jeremy Deller in the Yale catalogue (
George Shaw: A Corner of a Foreign Field) reveals that while Shaw was working on 'The Lost of England' he'd made a collage of key references and images on the studio wall. This in itself is a bit teenage bedroom-esque, what with its schoolbags, its pop references and the odd pin-up. (By which I don't mean the pic of Christ on the cross.)

Detail of Shaw's Dartmoor studio, 2017. 2017.

Down in the bottom corner can be seen this:

Detail of Shaw's Dartmoor studio, 2017. 2017.

A rainbow over a church emphasises the spiritual nature of the place. A rainbow over the view from a boy's bedroom does the same. It emphasises the blessedness of it all.

But why is the rainbow incomplete in Shaw's triptych? Perhaps because the view from a child's bedroom is all about potential. The fullness of life is not going to be experienced there and then. Travel will be involved: to meetings and happenings. But one couldn't wish for a better start in life, and it's what many of the baby boomer generation were given. A room in a newly built house owned or rented by parents who had been through the war years and come out of it intent on making the world a better place for their children. At the very least a university or art school education beckoned!

George Shaw. Two Views from a Teenager's Bedroom, 2017. Enamel on canvas, 46 x 55cm. Half of diptych.

In the interview, Shaw reveals that this room was indeed his bedroom when he was growing up. But it was also the room in which his father died. That says a lot. The rainbow goes up. But what goes up must come down.

George Shaw. Two Views from a Teenager's Bedroom, 2017. Enamel on canvas, 46 x 55cm. Half of diptych.

Even as a teenager, intent on the going up, one knows about the coming down. But it's different when it actually happens. This diptych was painted in 2017, about a decade after Shaw's father died. But the acknowledgement of the father's irreplaceable role in the son's life, and the grief at his disappearance, may well be ongoing. It is for me in respect of my own father.

Here's a perspective I have to fit in. From 1964 to 1972 I was living at 8 Townhill Road, Hamilton. Two walls of the bedroom I shared with my brother were completely covered in double-page spreads of football teams taken from the centre of football magazines. Scottish teams from
Football Scot and English teams from Shoot. I can still remember the Leeds United team of that era. Gary Sprake, Paul Reaney, Terry Cooper, Billy Bremner, Jackie Charlton, Paul Madeley, Eddie Gray, Alan Clarke, Mick Jones, Johnny Giles and Peter Lorimer. That's eleven out of eleven. And I could remember almost as many Rangers and Celtic players from about 1970. Frankly, I'd rather exchange the data for what I now judge to be more useful info, but it seems that that can't be done. I remain at Don Revie's disposal should he ever be a player short.

We weren't in Europe then. Edward Heath would take us into the Common Market at the beginning of 1973. Every day I would wake up and think in terms of Scotland versus England, and Britain versus the rest of the world. In other words, when
a Scottish team played an English one, I wanted the former to win. But when an English team played a continental team, I cheered on the English. Pathetic, really. But I don't blame myself. I blame the too tribal culture that I was born into. No, 'blame' is the wrong word. For I was happy enough and didn't mean any harm to the opposition. Anyway, that was then, when I was pre-teenage. This is now.

Interesting to try and read the paintings in another way. In the above image, can it be interpreted as a rainbow going up, from bottom right of the picture to top centre? Like a firework. And in the painting below, can the rainbow be thought of as going down from top centre to bottom left?

George Shaw. Two Views from a Teenager's Bedroom, 2017. Enamel on canvas, 46 x 55cm. Half of diptych.

I've a feeling we in the West scan a picture from left to right and from top to bottom. Certainly, that's the way we read a page of writing. I suppose there is some room for manoeuvre. I think my eye reads the row of houses from left to right, then the rainbow from bottom left to top centre. Of course, I can force my eye to do otherwise. I can even make it concentrate on the TV aerials to the exclusion of all else. But why would I want to do that? Doctor Who, Star Trek, The Magic Roundabout. That's why.

What happens if I place the paintings together like below? An explosion of joy as seen from a teenager's bedroom.

George Shaw. Two Views from a Teenager's Bedroom, 2017. Enamel on canvas, 46 x 55cm. Diptych.

Let me try and think something through.

I think it’s true to say that those responsible for Brexit come from the ‘top’ of our society. Boris Johnson, Dominic Cummings, Nigel Farage, Michael Gove and Jacob Rees Mogg, are five proponents that come to mind. All went to expensive public schools and all but one (Farage, who went straight to the City) were educated at Oxford University. All are rich. Given too much too young they want it all, as it were. They see themselves as in charge of Britain - both Johnson and Gove were presidents of the Oxford Union and have gone on to get senior jobs in government - so they want maximum power to be vested in Britain, not Europe.

I think it’s also true to say that those who support Brexit are, by and large, from the hard working part of society. People who feel that their jobs may be under threat from competition and immigration. People who think that they haven’t gained much from being part of Europe. People who support local football teams and speak in regional accents, two signs of how important tribalism is to the culture they were raised in. (As I mention above, that's the culture I come from. But I benefitted from a grammar school education which culminated in reading Geography at Cambridge.)

Almost nobody I know - that is primarily artists and university-educated professionals - supports Brexit. I suppose we are, or have become, the middle class. We were given enough resources when we were young, so that we learned to think for ourselves and to empathise with other people. We like what’s at one end of the rainbow - our peaceful bedrooms - and want to explore what’s at the other end. Plenty cultural figures have settled in Europe for a few years, setting an example to whole generations of us.

George Shaw. Coming Up For Air, 2017. Enamel on canvas, 92 x 121cm. With added text.

We have neither group one's aggression (“I have a lot and I am entitled to a lot more”) or group two's defensiveness (“I have hardly anything and it must be protected at all costs”). We of group three read, travel; we embrace other people and other cultures.

George Shaw once said: “I think if you can’t find the sublime in your own front room then it’s really not worth finding.” As I'm sure George appreciates, once you've found it in your own home, you're going to look for the sublime elsewhere. Indeed, you're not going to settle for anything less wherever you live. Some of us (not me) do this with immense chutzpah.

George Shaw. Another Minute's Silence, 2017. Enamel on canvas, 46 x 55cm. With added text.

And what do you do once you've found the treasure at the other end of the rainbow? Well, you might bring it back home! To Tile Hill or wherever.

We don’t fear immigration because we realise that immigrants pick fruit, work in care homes, are qualified doctors, serve in restaurants and cafés, have experience of life and are willing and able to share their knowledge and wisdom.

Many of us in group three read the
Guardian and listen to Radio 4 and some of us do Twitter. Others take part in peaceful marches and all of us take democracy seriously, which is why that 2016 vote was so shattering. Alas, more of that first group own newspapers (Mail, Sun, Express, Telegraph, Times) and employ editors in order to keep group two well and truly hooked on the idea of Brexit, that narrow nationalism.

But let the Brexiteers do their worst. I've been an upwardly mobile baby-boomer and no-one can take certain things away from me now. I have Apollo 11,1969; David Bowie singing 'Starman',1972; and the fall of the Berlin Wall,1989. Put all three together and what do you have? Take it away, Major Tom, 1977:

"I, I will be king
And you, you will be queen
Though nothing will drive them away
We can beat them, just for one day
We can be Heroes, just for one day."

Actually, this might be a suitable song of Nigel and Boris. The one they sing in those moments when they think their project might fail. This next verse is Boris's:

"And you, you can be mean
And I, I'll drink all the time
'Cause we're Leaders, and that is a fact
Yes we're Leaders, and that is that
Though nothing will keep us together
We could steal time, just for one day
We can be Leaders, for ever and ever
What d'you say?"

Over to Nigel:

"I, I wish you could swim
Like the piranhas, like piranhas can swim
Though nothing, nothing will keep us together
We can beat them, for ever and ever
Oh we can be Leaders, just for one day."


"I, I will be King
And you, you will be Queen
Though nothing will drive them away
We can be Leaders, just for one day
We can be US, just for one day."

I suppose Boris means 31 October, 2019. He continues, with Nigel doing backing vocals:

"I, I can remember (I remember)
Standing by the wall (by the wall)
And the guns shot above our heads (over our heads)
And we kissed, as though nothing could fall (nothing could fall)
And the SHAME was on the other side
Oh we can beat them, for ever and ever
Then we could be Heroes, just for one day."

31 October, 2019?

"We can be Heroes
We can be Heroes
We can be Heroes
Just for one day
We can be Heroes."

Some would say there is a difference between heroes and zeros. Are you receiving me, Boris Johnson? Cos it's not too late.

"We're nothing, and nothing will help us
Maybe we're lying, then you better not stay
But we could be safer, just for one day."

Words fail me. Let words fail Boris and Nigel.

"Oh-oh-oh-ohh, oh-oh-oh-ohh
Just for one day.

31 October, 2019. Though this was written on October the 9th, twenty-two days short of a possible doomsday. And I'm scared. Aesthetically exhilarated, but scared.

George Shaw. Two Views from a Teenager's Bedroom, 2017. Enamel on canvas, 46 x 55cm. Half of diptych.

You've got to fight…

(Samuel Beckett in Paris)

For your right…

(David Bowie in Berlin.)

To party…

(Thomas Cook in Spain.)

Remain = Explore = Grow = Rainbow = Lawrence in Sicily = Orwell in Catalonia = Turner in Venice = Golden Years


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.