in Influences | 06 OCT 16

An Artist's Eye: George Shaw

'You wake up one morning and someone is gone'

in Influences | 06 OCT 16

In a new series, artists exhibiting at Frieze London select works at Frieze Masters which speak to them. George Shaw - whose painting Reclining Tree (2015-2016) is on display at Wilkinson (G6) chose a pair of carved mourning angels from the Circle of Hans Multscher (c.1470), on display at Arcadia Cerri (H6), in Collections at Frieze Masters. 

Circle of Hans Multscher, Two Mourning Angels (c.1470) on the stand of Arcadia Cerri (H3) in Spotlight at Frieze Masters. Photo courtesy: Frieze

 What I love about this fair is it’s like going back to art school - you look at some artists again for the first time in ages.  These two figures would once have held the dead body of Jesus. It’s labelled here: ‘Two Mourning Angels’, but I want to read it as ‘Two Morning Angels’. You wake up one morning and someone is gone. That’s how death is, that’s how it’s happened here.  While I’ve been the Associate Artist at the National Gallery, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be a ‘master’ - as in Old Master - and not just a painter. I told some students that I think it’s when your work outlives you. Death, this anxiety, is all part of being an artist. There’s something about the fact that what we have are the angels holding these arms, these fragments or pieces, that’s really moving. And weird. It makes me think of those grown men at concerts who fight over pieces of a singer’s shirt. There’s that Johnny Thunders song 'You can’t put your arms around a memory'. These "groupie"-like angels show just such an absence.

George Shaw, Reclining Tree (2015-16). Courtesy: the artist and Wilkinson