‘Places in which I forgot things’: memory, identity and the English council estate in the paintings of George Shaw

Waites, Ian (2012) ‘Places in which I forgot things’: memory, identity and the English council estate in the paintings of George Shaw. In: Affective Landscapes, 25-26 May 2012, University of Derby.

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Item Type:Conference or Workshop contribution (Paper)
Item Status:Live Archive


George Shaw (1966– ) is a British painter known for his meticulous, Humbrol-rendered depictions of Tile Hill in Coventry, a post-war council housing estate where Shaw lived from 1968 until the late 1980s. Shaw portrays the estate with a somewhat dour objectivity but the statements he makes about his work are expressed in a frequently uncertain, even dreamlike manner that clearly demonstrates a profound attachment to the place of his childhood and youth. Many critics of Shaw’s work have nonetheless found it difficult to comprehend why he paints what they see as a problematic and singularly unprepossessing environment. In contrast, this paper will attempt to assess Shaw’s paintings of Tile Hill in a more understanding light, firstly as a product of a wider struggle between the idealistic principles of council estate planning produced by the Government’s Central Housing Advisory Committee in the 1960s, and the later, negative, social and aesthetic stereotyping of these estates. We shall see how Shaw’s paintings appear to cope with such tensions by ‘spectrally wavering’ between the images of Tile Hill as remembered from his childhood, and of the place in its present condition. From there however, the paper will argue that a more nuanced understanding of Shaw’s work can be gained from an exploration of autobiographical memory and childhood development to finally show how the semi-urban/semi-rural spaces of the post-war council estate had an indelible effect on the formation of Shaw’s personal and cultural identity.

Keywords:Council Estates, English Painting, Memory, Identity
Subjects:K Architecture, Building and Planning > K421 Urban Planning
V Historical and Philosophical studies > V350 History of Art
L Social studies > L726 Cultural Geography
W Creative Arts and Design > W120 Painting
Divisions:College of Arts > School of Architecture & Design > School of Architecture & Design (Design)
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ID Code:5732
Deposited On:31 May 2012 13:18

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