George Shapter @ The Shop

LOUISE PATERSON: “Shapter’s entirely warranted confidence has resulted in exactly the sort of contemporary art which everyone should go and see.”

Art art exhibition fine art george shapter louise paterson The Shop

The Shop, 28th-30th April

George Shapter’s exhibition at The Shop showcases his recent work, which is  apparently derived from nature, and where the expressionistic and the geometric interact in works in black ink on neutral backgrounds. The pieces on display vary from the size of one’s palm to the size of the whole wall.

Due to its design, The Shop always risks being a rather formless gallery, but in this case a makeshift central enclosure defined a thought-provoking, circular route, which followed the general simplification of form in Shapter’s works. With recognisably urban scenes at the beginning culminating in blocks of printed monochrome, a sense of stylistic unity was maintained by uniform black ink and the reappearance of an intriguing angular approach, which ranged in effect from the mathematical to the mountainous.

Photos by Abi Lander

While size was not strictly an indicator of success, some of the smaller extrapolations from nature lost intellectual force as a result of their quite formulaic, pattern-like abstraction. In works which seemed to elucidate the increasingly tangled relationship between the tangible and the simulated, Shapter’s detailed and obviously skilled execution in pen and ink was already ideal by itself, and the geometric inclusions somewhat undermined the subtlety of exquisite draughtsmanship.

Moreover, a few examples suffered as a result of clunky box frames, when the bulldog clips and nails which pinned most work to the walls worked in themselves as understated references to the disparity between the natural and the artificial.

A long, horizontal scroll depicting every tiny detail of a gnarled tree branch in black and white was probably my favourite piece of all, because the break up into nonrepresentational form was limited to a small area; instead, innovative hanging on a curved wall reinforced the separation between the organic and the man-made by the intrusion it afforded to incidental architecture.

In his larger and less delineated works, Shapter discards some of this narrative, reducing perspective and eliminating detail in misty ‘landscapes’ on reclaimed hessian. Some are redolent of J.M.W. Turner or Caspar David Friedrich in their beautiful evocation of the sheer power of the natural world, and the one work which was actually hung inside the tent-like structure was particularly successful, since the enclosed space brought the painting very close. This means that its upwards triangular point stretched into a monumental peak right above one’s head. Other pieces, particularly a diptych on textured parchment, are balanced and rational in a very orderly, Japanese style, with looser brushwork reminiscent of Asian calligraphy.

The importance of directly experiencing works of art like this cannot be overestimated: appreciation of the unrefined surfaces’ juxtaposition with careful inking is a key aspect of graphic work like this, and just like the significance of the human procedure of creation, can only really be appreciated in person.

Shapter’s entirely warranted confidence has resulted in exactly the sort of contemporary art which everyone should go and see: without an intimidating contextual history, or even any titles, it is fresh and encouraging, and will engage any number of individual interactions with its ideas.