Tim Shaw was born in Belfast in 1964 and lives in Cornwall. He was elected to The Royal Academy in 2013 and made a Fellow of The Royal British Society of Sculptors and a Fellow of Falmouth University the same year.
Shaw has had a number of significant solo shows throughout the UK, Ireland and internationally. Most recently the major public solo exhibition Black Smoke Rising, which toured from Mac Birmingham to Aberystwyth Arts Centre. During 2014, Shaw’s work featured in Reflections of War at Flowers Gallery, London, and Back From the Front presents: Shock and Awe – Contemporary Artists at War and Peace at the Royal West of England Academy.

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In recent years Tim Shaw has undertaken major sculpture commissions including his large scale Rites of Dionysus series (life size mythical creatures made from beaten copper) for The Eden Project, Cornwall, and The Minotaur for the Royal Opera House, London. For many years Shaw has worked from his studio in Cornwall, with periods spent in Spain and Greece. In 2006 he was awarded the prestigious Kenneth Armitage Sculpture Fellowship. Shaw’s sculptures are often a direct response to media coverage and imagery of the Iraq war.


by Jackie Wullschlager

Here is art to inspire the Obama of the next generation? The most politically charged yet poetically resonant new work on show in London now is Tim Shaw’s Casting A Dark Democracy . Shaw works in the late Kenneth Armitage’s studio in Kensington, and for this theatrical installation he has transformed the lovely light-filled space into a black desert horror. You enter to the sound of a thudding gong suggesting both a heartbeat and the glug-glug of oil seeping from a barrel – life force versus greed and war. Then you trudge through sand in a dirty graffiti-scrawled room with open pipes and scaffolding. Above towers a five-metre hooded figure, constructed out of welded steel and barbed wire, over which black polythene is stretched, stands on a burntwooden box and casts a shadow in the sand in the form of a glistening black pool of sump oil.
Based on the infamous 2004 photograph of the Abu Ghraib prisoner tortured by US soldiers, this contemporary figure also looks ancient, timeless, reminiscent of Bosch and Goya. The hung head, downcast big hands and tendril-like legs are exaggerated and emotive as expressionist drawings. But move close and the figure changes: solidity vanishes in the voids between entwined wires and flimsy polythene and it becomes a phantom form, dread creature of the Gothic imagination, of barbarous recesses of the mind come to the fore in wartime atrocities.
Empathetic yet implicating us all, “Casting A Dark Democracy” is one of too few works to engage unequivocally with the reality and human cost of the Iraq war. It ought to stand on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square, or in Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall, or in Tate Britain’s Duveen Gallery, where Martin Creed’s runners now make a trite mockery of public art.

Smaller scaled, Shaw’s detailed “Tank on Fire” and “Man on Fire”, also based on newspaper photographs, share the same force of conviction and spare, bold imagery. Modelled in wax around metal armatures, coated in black oil and plastic to give a sprawling, metamorphosing quality, they are tough, just controlled, angry: “Man on Fire” lunges on an oil-splattered plinth inscribed “What God of Love Inspires Such Hatred in the Hearts of Men”. Upstairs, aggressive little bronze casts depicting Silenus, tutor of Dionysus, as an old masturbating fool, have tragi-comic energy; a larger example shown at a group exhibition in Vyner Street was destroyed by a vandal shrieking that Shaw “worshipped the wrong God”.
I have no idea if he worships any God, but “Middle World”, the other major sculpture here, confirms the political-religious sensibility of this Belfast-born artist.


The Evening Standard

Review of The Saatchi Galleries
‘The Shape of Things to Come: New Sculpture’

by Brian Sewell

“I can point without hesitation to a sculptor who can trounce the lot of them whether they be Saatchi’s present choice or the sentimental memorialists recently let loose in London – Tim Shaw, unknown and young enough to be still new and capable of taking risks, old and skilled enough to be seen as in the monumental tradition of Charles Sargent Jagger and Michael Sandle.”

Professor Michael Sandle RA

“There are more “artists” now than at any other time in Western Civilization – art is now “populist” and has got “street cred “ – that which had been a vocation and a life-time’s project for idealists and dreamers has now become a very large and often a not very pleasant industry. The trouble with this is the tidal-wave of mediocre, trite or often meaningless “art” that this has resulted in .

Thank God therefore for Tim Shaw – he stands out like an indestructible lighthouse built on rock in this sea of trivia. Why ? Because he is his own man – he takes risks – he is engaged in a dialogue with the real world and therefore his work has meaning – his work demonstrates unequivocally that he has passion and – importantly – that he is compassionate. He has great integrity and is lucky enough to be very skilled in many reaches of the difficult and demanding profession called sculpture – and have the physique and stamina for it .

Tim Shaw is the genuine article – someone who has irrevocably committed his life to art. The symbiosis that exists between his work and his being is remarkable – I think the fact that he is from Northern Ireland is relevant – his work is tough and insistant –a bit like the cadences of Northern Irish speech-patterns. His work is atavistic -as he is himself – I can’t get it out of my mind that I have seen his face somewhere amongst the hundreds of photos I have looked at of WW1 soldiers staring back from the trenches and I’m sure I‘ve seen him in a Rennaisance Fresco somewhere.”

Works by Tim Shaw