George Shaw: My Back to Nature

National Exhibition Register

  • George Shaw in his studio
    George Shaw in his studio
    Image Credit
    © Photo The National Gallery, London. Works by George Shaw: Copyright the Artist / Courtesy Wilkinson Gallery, London

About the exhibition

This exhibition sees the unveiling of new works by the contemporary painter George Shaw created over two years during his residency as the National Gallery’s Associate Artist 2014-2016. Shaw is known for his minutely detailed and luminously atmospheric paintings which are essentially townscapes and landscapes but also much more than that. The fusion of stark realism and lyrical romanticism makes him among the most original voices in British art.

Shaw’s works have an unsettling resonance, alluding to a murkier side of contemporary society and collective subconscious.  Paintings featuring woodlands have a particular appeal for Shaw as they resonate with his own experience of walking in the forest near his home town as a teenager and the feeling that “something out of the ordinary could happen at any time there away from the supervision of adults”.

Amongst works in the exhibition will be a series of individual studies of trees, with their twisted branches and rotting hollows strangely suggestive of the human body. Their collective title ‘You’ve changed’ is a nod in the direction of the myth of Apollo and Daphne, when the nymph magically transformed into a tree as the god tried to rape her.

The three largest works in the show relate in a similar way to the three great Titian mythologies, that tell the stories of the goddess Diana and her transformations of Actaeon and Callisto. Midway through his residency, Shaw ordered three canvases to be made up to the exact scale of the Titian paintings and produced three mysteriously beautiful pictures hinting at strange happenings in the woodlands of the modern world.

“I used to say belligerently that I’d never painted a landscape in my life, in the same way that you never get landscape authors — even though Wuthering Heights is set in a landscape, it’s not a landscape novel, it’s about relationships and ancestry and love," Shaw says.

Typically Shaw paints on board using Humbrol enamel, the paint of choice for model makers, which act as a deliberate means of distancing himself from the traditions of oil painting on canvas; however, in response to the surroundings of the National Gallery’s collection this exhibition will also include new works on canvas and some preparatory drawings. 

Artists and Curator

Colin Wiggins, Special Projects Curator, the National Gallery London

George Shaw was born in 1966 in Coventry. He studied Fine Art at Sheffield Polytechnic from 1986-89 and gained an MA in painting from the Royal College of Art in London in 1998. Solo exhibitions have included ‘I woz Ere’, Herbert Art Gallery & Museum, Coventry (2011); 'Looking for Baz. Shaz. Gaz and Daz', Void, Derry (2010); 'Woodsman', Wilkinson Gallery, London (2009); 'The End of the World', Galerie Hussenot, Paris (2008); 'A Day for a Small Poet', Clough Hanson Gallery, Rhodes College, Memphis, USA (2007) 'Poets Day', Centre d ‘Art Contemporain, Geneva (2006); 'Ash Wednesday', Wilkinson Gallery, London (2005), 'What I did this Summer', Ikon Gallery, Birmingham (2003). He has participated in group shows in London at White Cube, Tate Britain, Whitechapel Gallery, Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) and the Jerwood Gallery. Internationally he has exhibited at Barbara Gladstone Gallery, New York, Michael Kohn Gallery, Los Angeles, City Art Gallery, Prague, Ex-Teresa Arte Actual, Mexico and Fabian Walter Galerie, Basel. Shaw was nominated for the Turner Prize in 2011.

Available Dates and
Exhibition Details

Available dates
31/05/2017 - 01/09/2018
Exhibition size
Over 100 sq or running metres
Originating state
Organised by
The National Gallery, London
Contact to discuss
Web Site
Accompanying materials available
Catalogue/Book, Installation Support Available, Interpretative/Didactic Panels, Labels
Primary contact
Hannah Hawksworth
International Projects Manager
The National Gallery, London
00 44 207 747 5927