March 2011


Ash Wednesday, 8.30am 2004/5 by George Shaw

Yes, this is a music blog, but here’s a post about some “visual art” I witnessed recently. Deal with it.

Until May 15th, the BALTIC (a contemporary art gallery in Newcastle) plays host to a retrospective of George Shaw’s series of paintings, The Sly and The Unseen. A collection of unpeopled images of the Tile Hill housing estate in Coventry, each painting has been completed using only Humbrol model-painting paint, giving each photorealistic picture an odd gleam under the light, making muddy puddles suddenly captivating and even the darkest, greyest images seem somehow effervescent.

Shaw equally captures a hidden beauty in the mundane and reveals the empty gloom of the kind of purpose-built, suburban estates that surround cities up and down the UK, alternating between the dark geometric shapes of houses and the seemingly out of place position of the natural, often placed behind, or around the human dwellings. Shaw’s work is, for me, about borders, liminal spaces, memory and humour – from the simple use of the kind of paint a child would be familiar with to the wonderfully-titled ‘This Sporting Life’ (a picture of broken public football goalposts) or the self-reflexive recreation of others’ graffiti (“Pete is a twat” was a particular favourite), each seemingly mundane image seems to hold something deeper for both Shaw and the viewer.

If you’re anywhere near Newcastle, I can’t recommend the exhibition enough – if you’re not, look out for when one might come your way, or just google him, it might not hold the same effect without seeing the paint, but the image above shows the sheer quality of his work.

Radiohead – How To Disappear Completely (YSI)

What did I miss? Nothing? Cool.

Preceding an otherwise unremarkable album, the opening track of Kurt Vile’s super-titled new album Smoke Ring For My Halo is the perfect soundtrack to the more-than-overdue nice weather we’re having in Newcastle at the moment. The hazy (and I bet that word has been used in almost every review the album’s got so far) background synths that bubble away sound like the humidity that’s caused Vile to get so languid as the guitar wiggles around restlessly throughout and vocals soporifically slide all over the place, refusing to speed up. Simple, sleepy and superb.

Kurt Vile – Baby’s Arms (YSI)