Rydal Water, Lake District, England by Ashley Shaw
1200 x 1800 mm
Oil on linen
Turquoise water, sunshine and sand. After leaving New Zealand with his family as a child, Ashley Shaw held on to these images until his return to Canterbury in 2002.
Ashley Shaw was born in Moerangi Bay, Auckland. At the age of five he left New Zealand with his family, beginning a new school and a new life in Berkshire, England. From a young age Ashley showed a passion for art, in particular painting. At the age of eight he won a national art award with a drawing of the Jubilee coach. On leaving school, he studied carpentry briefly before undertaking a four year apprenticeship to Italian painter/sculptor Rudi Musu, preferring the practical expectations of 12-14 hour days to the more directive approach of art school. Long hours making elaborately carved furniture and public sculptures, and painting for private commissions, left little time for his personal obsession with art.
Nevertheless he spent long hours studying the Old Masters, learning the various painting techniques and copying those he admired. It became an obsession. I spent days examining their work, trying out their brushwork. I would paint through the night. Learning through copying, copying, copying. But it was the works of J.M.W. Turner, the master of light whose luminous expressions of his own romantic feelings brought him critical acclaim from an early age, that most intrigued the young artist.
‘What you paint is how you feel about a scene. What you see, how you react to it, how you perceive it as an individual it is emotional.’
The early tragic death of friend and mentor Rudi Musu brought a change in Ashley’s life. He gave up sculpture and carving, and began work as a freelance artist for an architectural office by day, concentrating on his own art practice by night. These works include watercolours and large landscape oils on canvas depicting scenes of the rugged coastline of Scotland, the landscapes of Yorkshire and Berkshire, and more personal abstract works, elucidating the intimacy of interior surroundings. Always the vision of the artist, the emotional response and the understanding of the scene in question the background, the lives of those who once lived there, the impact on the viewer are as much a part of the composition as the effect of light on form. Underpinning each work is months of research and the sharpened skill of the trained observer.
A large oil painting of the 1998 fire at Windsor Castle saw the beginning of a two-year rush of madness. He produced over 60 works during this period, frantically working to keep up with the demands from private commissions and exhibitions. Despite the intense competition of the London art scene, Shaw was quickly able to find a place within the dealer gallery circuit both in the capital and beyond. Wearying of the unrelenting demands on his work as a painter, however, he began to slow production down, experimenting with abstraction, while considering a change in location.