Monday, 13 April 2009

George Shaw and The Specials

George Shaw, 'For The Boys On The Back Seat, acrylic on rucksack, 1999

Wasn’t it brilliant to see the reformed Specials on ‘Later…with Jools Holland’ last week? It was a reminder of how powerful and original their music was. I was a bit too young to appreciate them in their heyday, but I have been a fan for a long time. I remember the impact they and other 2-Tone bands had on the older kids at my school though, who used to be dressed to impress in their loafers, parkas, and Bobby Punn trousers. The music and lyrics came from a working class culture that really struck a chord with myself and so many others in it’s authenticity. The social and political observations were always so spot-on. I’m kicking myself I didn’t get a ticket for one of the reformed gigs now! I got all wrapped in the ‘it’s not The Specials without Jerry Dammers’ thing. The band give a good account of all this in this month’s Q magazine.

George Shaw, ' Scenes From The Passion', humbrol enamel on board, 2001

One of the most interesting artists of recent years for me has been the painter George Shaw. He is famous for his meticulous depictions in Humbrol Enamel paint on board of the Coventry housing estate he grew up on. He has however also created other pieces and drawings that reflect his admiration of The Specials too, and interest in certain areas of British working class culture. Culture as depicted in the films of Ken Loach, the ‘Plays for Today’ of the sixties and seventies, the books of Alan Sillitoe and Stan Barstow, and TV such as ‘Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads’ and ‘Auf Wiedersehn,Pet’ by Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais. It is an interest I share, but have not met many other people, least of all artists, with much interest in this, so I was naturally drawn to these influences in Shaw’s work. They are very subtlely presented however, in photo’s of his studio, or in catalogues rather than directly in the paintings. It seems to suggest the heart that beats beneath the work. Here's a good link:
George Shaw (with John Strutton), 'The Land of Nod,' installation view, Lift Gallery 1999

The recent films by director Shane Meadows, such as ‘This Is England’, and ‘Dead Man’s Shows’, seem to have a quality, passion and again, authenticity straight out of this era and culture too. You can see that he is obviously influenced by these things, but seems to have managed to bring them to a whole new audience.

still from 'Dead Man's Shoes'

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