In the Studio: George Shaw, Painter

'Once my paintings are in the house they can do quite nasty things to you'

Painter George Shaw decamped to Ilfracombe in Devon in 2004. His then long-term partner, now wife, Katherine, came from the town and they felt it was time for a change from Nottingham.

"Will you be painting the sea?" I ask looking at the stunning view from the couple's kitchen, and Shaw virtually shudders. "I want to paint the sea. I have done it once or twice but it does not say anything. It is a cliché."

The studio downstairs is bright today, but Shaw confesses: "Normally the shutters are closed. I opened them because I have a visitor. I can't stand light. It is irritating because it changes. The paints I use can't handle light."

He admits to sometimes wearing a black mask when he is painting, and has to remember to take it off before he opens the door to visitors.

Shaw has had a good 2011, with a solo show at the Baltic followed by a Turner Prize nomination. This year he is included in the Liverpool Biennial, "My first bienniale", he tells me. This for a "mere" painter, and one who does not do heroic paintings. Shaw says, "what I do seems quite conservative in these landscape paintings". He adds: "Politeness is how I let myself in the house. My paintings are quite Trojan horses. Once my paintings are in the house they can start to do quite nasty things to you".

In the studio today are intricate drawings of gnarly trees. Shaw says "I was obsessed by drawing as a kid. I was doing life drawing at 11. I was addicted to it". Nearby is a bedroom scene, his father's deathbed. Shaw painted his father continually from when he was a child to his death. His mother told him to paint him after his death and he did. He chuckles: "She said, you always complained he would not stay still and now he will."

Shaw's father loomed large in his life. "My dad enjoyed my position as an artist. I was making art, but he 'constructed' me by giving me books to read and taking me to exhibitions," he says. "He knew that as a working-class man you have to make a living and if you learn to draw you will always have something to fall back on because the rich will always want paintings of themselves."

Shaw says that to understand how he works I should come down to the basement where his stuff is. A self-confessed hoarder, he has boxes piled high, and on the wall a variety of images ranging from Poussin to Courbet. Close by is an eye-catching, if grubby. painting of the sea. "I bought that in a thrift shop. It's good isn't it? Better than anything I could do."

George Shaw is exhibiting in Thresholds at Tate Liverpool and is one of the judges of the John Moores Painting Prize

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