For this exhibition Turner Prize nominated artist George Shaw presents new paintings at the National Trust property Cherryburn in Northumberland, birthplace of celebrated 19th century artist and engraver Thomas Bewick.
Home is Unspent includes new, intimate paintings of Shaw’s childhood home following the death of his mother, capturing the spaces that remain and the shapes we leave behind. The works respond directly to the intimacy of Cherryburn and the exhibition also includes the creation of a bird outline on the flagstones, with Shaw drawing on the hearth just as Bewick did. Themes of loss, isolation and the natural world are explored in a series of Shaw’s paintings, A History of Dead British Birds, created during lockdown at the artist’s Dartmoor home, and referencing Bewick’s illustrations for History of British Birds (two volumes, 1797 and 1804). Shaw’s paintings of children’s gravestones speak to one of Bewick’s ‘tale-pieces’, presented as part of Home is Unspent which shows a group of children in party hats riding gravestones. A further tale-piece attracts particular interest as it features a small scene with a house and figure on horseback almost totally obscured by the artist’s engraved thumb-print.
About the artists
George Shaw was born in Coventry in 1966 and graduated with a BA in Fine Art from Sheffield Polytechnic in 1989, completing an MA in Painting at the Royal College of Art, London in 1998. Shaw has held many group and solo exhibitions, both internationally and across the UK. Public collections of his work include Tate, The British Museum and Yale Center for British Art, USA. Shaw’s work is inspired by the suburban areas where he grew up as well as observations of the natural world. He is known for his use of Humbrol enamel paint, more commonly used to paint Airfix models, giving his work a unique appearance. Ikon presented an exhibition of paintings by George Shaw, What I did this Summer, in 2003.
Thomas Bewick was born in Cherryburn, near Mickley, Northumberland in 1753, and worked in Newcastle until his death in 1828. Influenced by his childhood on a farm close to the River Tyne, Bewick’s love of the countryside is reflected in his detailed woodcuts of animals, birds and rural scenes. Amongst his most ambitious projects were illustrations for General History of Quadrupeds (1790) and History of British Birds (two volumes, 1797 and 1804), which also included a great number of vignettes, referred to by Bewick as ‘tale-pieces’. Intended as illustrations of “some truth or point of some moral” they provide an insight into social history while demonstrating the artist’s imagination and wit. Ikon presented the first exhibition devoted entirely to Thomas Bewick’s vignettes, Tale-pieces, in 2009. A catalogue is available to buy from Ikon Shop, online and in-store.
National Trust - Cherryburn
Station Bank, Mickley Square, Stocksfield, Northumberland, NE43 7DD
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