Once Upon a Time: Phil Shaw

1 - 25 January 2020 London

Phil Shaw is an award-winning British artist, famous for his conceptually subversive and technically daring images of bookshelves. 


This December the Rebecca Hossack Art Gallery will launch Shaw’s latest publication – Once Upon A Time - a box-set of eight pictorial short-stories artfully constructed by Shaw from the book-titles of one thousand other authors. It is a bravura achievement: brilliant, compelling, surreal, witty, and visually stunning.


These narrative pieces were originally conceived and created as life-size hyper-realistic bookshelf prints, and as such have been widely acclaimed – and collected. They have been exhibited at both the Royal Academy London, and the Saatchi Gallery in London, and have been acquired by several important collections, including Paul Allen’s Vulcan Foundation in Seattle.


The Once Upon A Time box-set casts them in a new, more intimate, format – with each piece contained in a slim individual volume. The eight stories embody, and subvert, eight different literary genres – fairy tale, pulp fiction, sci-fi, spy thriller, romance, horror story, nautical yarn, and cowboy novel. The titles of the books – all genuine – when read from left to right along the shelf – spell out the unexpected narrative. The artwork on the book-spines, re-imagined and re-drawn by Shaw, echoes the flavour of the relevant genre. Authors as diverse as Anthony Trollope, Virginia Woolf, John le Carré, and Barbara Cartland are pressed into service, along with a host of lesser lights; Jamie Oliver and Dostoyevsky find themselves side by side on the same shelf – and making perfect sense.


The launch of the box-set will coincide with an exhibition of the full series of the original large-format narrative prints, the first time that all eight works have been shown together.