George Shaw’s My Baby Is Alright … from teenage kicks to lonely men

Pleasure heads …

Historically, nudes in art tended to be of the divine kind. Those who appreciated their charms could tell themselves they did so with an elevated mind, alive to coded meaning and classical ideals.

Junkyard …

In 2016’s My Baby Is Alright, She Doesn’t Mind a Bit of Dirt (Release the Bats), George Shaw’s naked ladies have fallen down to earth with a crash. These used porn mag pages are rotting in the mud and leaves: bodies in a shallow grave.

News from nowhere …

The illicit scene is, presumably, a “behind-the-bushes” spot on the Coventry council estate where the artist grew up. It is the eternal subject of his paintings, which are made looking back as an adult while living elsewhere.

Wild world …

It is a painting whose dirt sticks to the skin, conjuring not romantic trysts but lonely, furtive men. At the same time, the perfectly pitched title, taken from the Birthday Party’s 1981 song, suggests a younger viewpoint: kids scouring the estate’s fringes, perhaps, and discovering their first images of sex.

Included in Words That Transform, Vibrate and Glow, Charlie Smith, EC1, to 8 February


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