REVIEW: George Shaw: My Back to Nature, National Gallery

Artist George Shaw’s latest work reveals his admiration for the National Gallery and its collection by being influenced by some of the work on display. 


George Shaw, The Heart of the Wood, 2015-2016. (c) The Artist and Wilkinson Gallery, London. 

Having been the National Gallery’s Rootstein Hopkins Associate Artist for the last two-and-a-half years as well as being a fan of the gallery all his life, George Shaw’s latest work reflects this passion as well being inspired by landscapes by Titian and Poussin, whose stories have parallels of how people behave in the woods today.

The pieces on display vary in size and offer new and vivid perspectives of woodland and the rubbish that can be found lying around in them, which suggest a huge number of different experiences of the people who have wondered through it.

Wondering around the exhibition, there is an almost 3D quality to the paintings that add an additional layer to the quality and vividness of the work that examines the clash of cultures, classical stories mixed with modern behaviour.

Pieces such as The Heart of the Wood are wonderfully isolating and peaceful to look at, drawing the viewer’s attention to the details of nature and how it can influence fairytales and classical stories. But in contrast to that, The Living and the Dead shows the impact of the modern world and our changing attitude to nature, which in this painting seems to suggest that we are neglectful.

But this is not an exhibition that is meant to be viewed as preachy, rather more focusing on the bleakness beneath the beauty of the woodland, that perhaps leaves more traces of human experiences than anywhere else.

Shaw’s work is perceptive and detailed, as seen in the ‘You’ve Changed’ series, a collection of paintings that focus on different parts of the woodland, showing how nature and woodland is constantly adapting. These works are particularly colourful and highlights to look at because they are equally bold and confident in style, reflecting Shaw’s style perfectly.

Some visitors might find the work a bit bleak, disheartening and isolating to look at, but there is no doubting the quality of the detail of the paintings that gradually draw you further and further in the longer that you look at them.

Students who have ambitions to becoming an artist like Shaw will definitely be intrigued by this exhibition and the way in which the artist manages to combine his love of the National Gallery while creating unique and detailed pieces of art.

George Shaw: My Back to Nature is on display to the public at the National Gallery from the 11th May until the 30th October 2016. For more information visit:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: