Photo credit: Steve Tanner
Contemporary visual artist and sculptor, Tim Shaw was born in Belfast in 1964. Educated in Belfast, Dublin and Enniskillen, Shaw began modeling with clay in school and decided to become a sculptor at the age of 15 after discovering a book on Rodin in a local bookshop. Shaw studied art at Manchester Polytechnic and Falmouth School of Art, and after a brief period working as a conservator of buildings and sculpture, decided to devote himself fully to creating sculpture.
In 2013 he was elected to the Royal Academy of Arts in London and he exhibits in the London Summer Exhibition annually.
The San Diego Museum of Art mounted his most significant international solo exhibition to date Beyond Reason (October 2018 to February 2019), a retrospective of his work which included six of his immersive, large-scale installations, exploring themes of global terrorism, freedom of speech, abuse of power and the future of AI. The exhibition opened to critical acclaim and was highlighted by Artnet as one of the foremost 'museum shows around the US worth travelling for'.
An incisive, political side to his work is evident in a number of his sculptures responding to issues such as terrorism and the war in Iraq, an example being Tank on Fire which was awarded the Selectors' Choice Threadneedle prize in 2008, and the deeply affecting installation Casting a Dark Democracy which the Financial Times described as 'The most politically charged yet poetically resonant new work on show in London. 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'.
As Shaw states, 'My work, which is essentially figurative, delves into the nature of the human psyche and has elements that are political, metaphysical and mythological. Themes of ritual and conflict reoccur. There is an attempt to understand the nature of who we are through a process of reduction: stripping back the human condition to its primordial bare bones'.
Currently, Shaw is bronze-casting his monumental work Man on Fire for permanent installation at the entrance of the Imperial War Museum North in Manchester. The project is made possible by a generous award from the Sir George Frampton Trust, Royal Academy of Arts.
Shaw has executed a number of major commissions, including The Minotaur for the Royal Opera House, London; The Rites of Dionysus for the Eden Project, Cornwall; The Green Man for Antony House, Plymouth; and The Drummer for the central square of Truro, Cornwall. In addition, Shaw has presented numerous exhibitions throughout the UK and Europe.
He won the prestigious Jack Goldhill Award for Sculpture at the Royal Academy of Arts London Summer Exhibition in 2015, the Mullan Prize at the Royal Ulster Academy, and a Kenneth Armitage Foundation Fellowship which allowed him to spend two and a half years residing and working in the late sculptor's London studio: 'The place possessed something which drove me to work and live to the very last drop of energy'. He was also awarded international residencies in Greece, Spain and Ireland.
In 2015 he won the distinguished George Schimmel Fellowship at the Kate Hamburger Center for Advanced Study in the Humanities 'Law as Culture' in Bonn and commenced work on The Birth of Breakdown Clown, a major, interactive project, integrating sculpture, artificial intelligence and robotics. The Clown interacts with the audience, speaking directly to them about moral conflicts facing the world today and providing thought-provoking responses about what it means to be human.
Shaw lives on a farm in Cornwall, UK where he has had his home and studios for over 30 years. There, he continues to sculpt Middle World, a rare geographical place where past, present and future are fused and the distance between all three has become thinned, evaporated and collapsed. Middle World is a piece central to his starting point as an artist and continues to be a driving energy in many of Shaw's works.