Laure Genillard Gallery
2 Hanway Place, London, W1T 1HB
Open Wednesday – Saturday, 1pm – 6pm, free entry
This exhibition, curated by Jonathan Watkins, Ikon Director, combines the work of two English artists, George Shaw and Thomas Bewick.
Thomas Bewick was working around the turn of the 19th century and is renowned for his wood engravings, especially natural history illustrations of birds and other animals. George Shaw emerged as an artist during the 1990s with a distinct figurative style, depicting everyday suburban scenes in modelling paint. Since then he has consistently produced paintings loaded with atmosphere, at once compelling and uneasy, often in the light of evening or an overcast sky. Roads and pavements shine with the reflections which come after rain. There are semi-detached houses, high-rise and low-rise estates, complete with pubs and community halls, playgrounds and the box-like buildings of comprehensive schools. Shaw’s paintings of woods are perhaps the most evocative. They are the spaces in between built-up areas, or land awaiting development – where children and adolescents are freer, after school or on holidays. These are the kinds of places where the artist, like millions of others, grew up – or rather this is how they are remembered.
Bewick similarly depicts the landscape of his childhood, the Tyne Valley west of Newcastle, in small vignettes he referred to as “tale-pieces”. They provide invaluable insight into not only the imagination and wit of the artist but also aspects of contemporary social history, especially rural life in the early nineteenth century. Bewick, a sceptical individual unimpressed by institutions, he shows us a man pissing against a section of Hadrian’s Wall, children riding gravestones as if they were hobby-horses, a donkey rubbing himself against a memorial erected to celebrate a “splendid (military] victory”, a scarecrow dressed in a soldier’s uniform and so on; all wonderful observations on all-too-human vanity.
Despite the centuries separating them, the two artists have much in common. They share an attention to detail and a philosophical sense of humour often with references to mortality.
Thomas Bewick, Tale Pieces catalogue is available to buy from Ikon Shop, online and in-store.