George Shaw
The World Turned Upside Down, 2019
Humbrol enamel on board
92 x 120 cm
Private Collection Basel / Courtesy: Anthony Wilkinson Gallery, London / Copyright The Artist

‘Despite my work being unapologetically autobiographical, the world it passes through is the world in which others live. It is a world where every mum and dad die, where the same sun rises and sets, where we all leave home, where we can all find ourselves unheard, on the road and between one thing and another. I would hope that the world the exhibition presents is one which others recognise, be it Midlanders, Plymothians or from the other side of the planet. Sounds like a good local to me.’ - George Shaw

A new exhibition, on display at The Box – Plymouth’s award-winning museum, art gallery and archive – from 18 June to 4 September will feature several new paintings and major loans by Turner Prize-nominated artist George Shaw. 'The Local' will reference his personal experiences and observations of isolation, loss and belonging.

Shaw is a Devon-based artist, living and working on the edge of Dartmoor. The title for his exhibition plays on ‘The Local’ also being a common way of referring to the nearest pub: a place anchored to the community, providing a local geographic reference point and a place where experiences are shared.

The exhibition is divided into three chapters. The first is a sequence of paintings that shows Tile Hill, Coventry where he grew up. With a nostalgic gaze, the paintings depict abandoned furniture, barriers, fences and tree stumps.

The exhibition continues with an intimate collection of works that focus on the passing of Shaw’s mother and the loss of the family home. They include a series of new drawings of the interior, paintings of the sky above the family home, and household objects. A reminder of life’s inevitable fragility, the works also capture the forced isolation of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The last chapter introduces paintings based on an image of Shaw walking along a country road, a path that leads from the old family home. Here, studies of a flowering laburnum in the garden, country roads, a stone circle, sun rises and sunsets are pointing at the present tense while also acting as reminders of other paintings in the exhibition.

Victoria Pomery, CEO at The Box said: “We’re delighted to be presenting this major exhibition of work by George Shaw at The Box over the summer. His paintings have the amazing ability of being able to convey themes that are extremely personal and completely universal all at the same time – and there will be many scenes and settings that people from towns and cities all over the UK will find familiarity with or recognise. There’s a real sense of nostalgia and poignancy to the exhibition which does a brilliant job of reflecting on the challenging times we’ve all experienced over the last couple of years – but it’s also very much about belonging and being a part of something – whoever we are and wherever we live.”

Most of Shaw’s work is painted from photographs and sketches taken around Coventry. The area is comprised of post-war housing interspersed with common land and wooded areas, plus some more recent light industrial units. Built to re-house bombed out city centre residents and a growing population, it’s neither urban, suburban nor rural. Much of the topography may be strikingly familiar for Plymothians, as will the tattered flags and loaded cloudscapes.

Shaw started much of his recent work before lockdown in 2018/19. This long gestation period has allowed him to revisit, re-photograph and rework the paintings to reflect changes, more current circumstances as well as the tenuous relationship between time and the still image.

Shaw is known for his use of Humbrol enamel paint, normally the preserve of young model-makers, and while landscape is his main subject, his focus is always on the suburban surroundings of his childhood. It’s a view of England that offers a detailed study of the changing nature of social housing; unconsidered or neglected landscapes that are suddenly elevated by the poignancy of personal memory.

Artist George Shaw said: ‘For the past 25 years, painting has been a way of rooting myself in time as well as place. Unlike paintings though, time and feet don’t stand still and roots soon become routes. But loved ones leave, settling becomes unsettled and arrival turns to departure.’

Shaw will give a talk at The Box where he will discuss his work and ‘The Local’ in more detail on the evening of Friday 1 July. More information and tickets will be available from late May at

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