Plenty can be seen in the background, 2023
Florence Shaw (UK)

Florence Shaw has responded to ‘epoch’ with a poem exploring the history of TMAG’s Private Secretary’s Cottage, and themes of obfuscation: the act of obscuring, muddling or concealing.

Plenty can be seen in the background, 2023, Florence Shaw. Image by Peter Whyte.

Florence Shaw

Florence Shaw is an artist, illustrator and the lyricist and vocalist of the British band, Dry Cleaning.

She grew up in south east London, the daughter of two artists. After studying illustration at Camberwell School of Arts, in 2012 she completed a Masters in visual communication at the Royal College of Art. She went on to teach drawing at several English universities while establishing herself as an artist, contributing work to shows including ‘Happy Birthday Edward Lear’ at the Poetry Café, London, 2012 and a series of multi-disciplinary exhibitions in collaboration with members of the band, Dog Chocolate, including two new shows, TV Party and Short Scenes at Deptford Cinema in 2015 and 2016, with artist and musician, Jonathan Allen. She published several collections of her drawings, including The Artist’s Family, after H.M, 2013 and Self Love, Self Interest, Self Advancement, 2012.

In 2017, despite having never performed, sung or written a song before, Shaw was coaxed into joining Dry Cleaning as the front woman and sole lyricist. The band signed a record deal with 4AD in 2019 and, in 2021, released their debut album, the critically acclaimed New Long Leg. They have performed live shows across the world and Shaw has become known for her witty, highly personal writing style and her distinctive spoken word vocals.

She continues to make art, employing a range of materials and processes: figurative monoprints using traditional paper marbling techniques, rag rug making, balloon making, drawing from her environment and drawing from imagination and memory. She has said: “All my ideas start as drawings and even if the resulting work is 3-D it still retains the spirit and outline of my style.”

Recent exhibitions have included: Both Keen, Coleman Project Space, London, 2020, a collaborative exhibition with artist Natalka Liber Stephenson; a one day residency at Andrew Kerr’s Clown Knowm, at Set, London, 2020, and Watery, Fluid, a group exhibition at Cloud Cuckoo Land gallery, London, 2018.

Recent publications include: a collection of tattoo designs for Francoise Tattoo in 2020 and Sleep Torpor, a comic using found text, mostly sourced from Reddit, published by Studio Operative and designed by P.G. Howlin’, London, 2019.

In both her lyrics and image making, Shaw frequently uses found and overheard language. As a child she recorded snatches of dialogue from radio and TV onto tape and, a keen eavesdropper, continues to make field recordings and notes of incidental conversations between friends, family and strangers. Public environments – the doctor’s waiting room, airplanes, supermarkets – are always a source of inspiration and she often writes and draws quickly while on the move, inventing stories from the things she sees and hears and her own internal monologues. Shaw has said: “My drawing and writing give away my preoccupations, which are sometimes very revealing and can be embarrassing. But I get a thrill out of being revelatory. I’ll include the most personal things, safe in the knowledge that it’s unlikely anyone will have the guts to confront me about it or ask questions.”

Video update - June 2023