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Roderick Shaw

In their own words

Recorded 1965

Roderick Shaw
Audio: 2 minutes

After the war, like in most countries after the war, a sort of a realist group started up, as a sort of protest against the old effete sort of painting, the romantic ivory tower type of painting. So, we called ourselves social realists. It was actually a left-wing tendency. This occurred, we found out later, in England, America and right throughout the English-speaking world, at any rate. In our group there were people like Roy Dalgarno, James Cant, Hal Missingham was later on involved, and we had quite a thriving movement and a school, ran classes and so on, exhibitions each year.

At the time, of course, there was a lot of, not exactly antagonism towards us but an unwillingness to accept the realist attitude, as we propounded it. It was rather dubbed as propaganda painting, and to a certain extent it was, as we always claimed that all art was propaganda of some sort, even it was propaganda for beautiful pansies or animals or whatever it might be. But I think we had a lot of rather half-baked ideas about social realism. Looking back on it, I don’t think we really knew what it was, in fact I’ve come to believe that there’s no such thing as a cut and dried social realism. Our impetus was to say something, to protest about things, to use our painting as a language; although we loved the language for its own sake, we felt that if we had a language we should speak with it, and not just reflect and be an image of the passing parade and so on.

Acknowledgements

This oral history of Roderick Shaw is from the De Berg Collection in the National Library of Australia. For more information, or to hear full versions of the recordings, visit the National Library of Australia website.

Audio source

National Library of Australia, Hazel de Berg collection

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Roderick Shaw

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

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