Every surface on the lower floors of the small terraced house in which Anthony Shaw grew up used to display pieces from his collection. They were even on the kitchen worktops next to the toaster, but there was a palpable sense of more, unseen rooms on the floors above pregnant with boxed and wrapped and stacked items.
In just over thirty years, Anthony Shaw acquired 600 pieces by 50 artists. The bulk of them are by the innovative, radical artists whom he refers to as his ‘top five,’ Gordon Baldwin, Ewen Henderson, Gilliam Lowndes, Sara Radstone, and Bryan Illsley ( whose paintings he also collects) , all of whom have become his friends. Although most are made of fired ceramic, none of the pieces in his collection is functional. To Shaw, they represent a logical development from British Modernism, the abstract art movement for which St Ives was the crucible in the 1950s.‘They were 10 years behind but they came out of the Modern Brits. These were artists who were using clay as another medium.’
Shaw says his pieces have become his family, ‘they remind me of occasions, they remind me of feelings.’ Crowded together in his childhood home, ‘ they know the space is limited, they shrink and pull themselves in,’ he confides. ‘They’re made by hand and they have a very physical presence. People have noticed that they’ve seen these works elsewhere, and they say that they’ve changed since they’ve been here. On their own they are majestic, they expand.’ He used to show his collection by special arrangement, but last year the majority of his pieces moved to York City Art Gallery on long term loan, where some of the interiors and arrangements from this very intimate domestic space have been recreated, but are unlikely to have been surpassed.
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