Friday, March 11, 2011

Waiting in the wings

Either the weather or my spirits have been wrong and some planned excursions have yet to take place; others are shaping in my mind. I have several points to raise, issues on which to muse.

Meanwhile George Shaw, painter, has an exhibition of his work on at the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art ("The Sly and Unseen Day").

George Shaw. From "The Sly and Unseen Day"

Shaw's work reminds me of Philip Larkin's poetry. Larkin wrote from his adopted Hull and conjures up the flatness and bleakness of that region well, mirroring it's fading purpose (the nearby Humber Bridge, so vast, was described as "the bridge to nowhere") within his own private life and the desperation of internalised disappointment so typical of his finest poetry.

Shaw makes a similar journey through the post war housing estates of his native Coventry (before Hitler, as fine a medieval city as any on the Continent). He depopulates his world, leaving few traces of human activity above the menial: A bus stop, a dog shit bin, scrawled and scratched graffiti behind an abandoned working men's club are the few signs of life; the once fashionable blank walls and Bauhaus Light new town architecture re-cycled in minimalist images painted, as all his work is, in enamel paint, supposedly meant for model makers. Yet, there are some memorable things in the show, even if, in nearly forty works (by my estimate) the sun appears once only directly and once by reflection. Otherwise the Coventry weather is all pewter coloured skies and wet concrete. If that sounds dreary, it is the same dreary one finds in Bergman films or Chekov's plays. Haunting.

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