Shortlisted for the Turner Prize in 2011, George Shaw is best known for his haunting hyper-realist paintings of the British suburban landscape. With piercing exactitude and uncompromising precision, Shaw captures the overlooked details of everyday life, rooted in observations of the Coventry council estate where he grew up. Painted in 2003, Little Graves I, II, III and IV are distinctive examples of his practice, relishing in the desolate aura of the deserted, overgrown graveyard. Throughout his oeuvre, Shaw’s signature use of Humbrol paints – most commonly used to paint Airfix models – lends his work an unmistakable sheen: ‘It’s that glow that you only see when you’re walking home from the pub alone’, he says. ‘That solitary glow, the glow of a telly though a window or streetlights
reflected on rain on the streets’ (G. Shaw, quoted in S. O’Hagan, ‘George Shaw: “Sometimes I look at my work and its conservatism shocks me”’, The Observer, 13 February 2011). His works infuse the mundane with a sense of otherworldly mystery, forcing us to look again at the banality of our surroundings. Shaw’s early graphite portrait of James Dean, created shortly after his graduation from the Royal College of Art in London, is executed with the same rigorous verisimilitude, extending his fascination with the quotidian into the realm of popular culture.