Luca Shaw’s abstract work takes inspiration from her own experience

The Stockport-based artist's line drawings are finding a home in both print and animated set design.

22 January 2020

There are few things in life that you know better than yourself, which you could say makes it a rather useful topic for inspiration. Luca Shaw does just this, featuring personal themes and viewpoints throughout her line-based abstract work.

“All my drawings tend to be quite inward looking, physical and phenomenological,” she tells us. “I’ve been actively working with involving the body – typically a female body, but not through depiction. More from the fact that I am female so that’s the place I’m drawing from, although they often come out rather masculine…”

Embracing the fact that she is looking at things from her own viewpoint, Luca’s work has a number of constants, notably the human silhouettes positioned in a variety of pensive poses. This continuity allows Luca’s work to translate across a variety of formats, from print at one end of the scale, to large theatre backdrops at the other. Even though the sizes and mediums may be different, the subject-matter and style persists.

“It’s quick and physical, yet (hopefully) sensitive, with a focus on the interaction between bold shape and free line,” says Luca. "I often work with multiples, I see drawings in groups as opposed to singular. I suppose this isn’t a conscious theme I’m exploring but more of an integral part of the process.”


Luca Shaw

Luca is from and based in Stockport, South Manchester, a town that she says is: “undergoing a creative revival and where the sense of community is really growing.” She studied illustration at Stockport College, which is “historically quite a legendary art school (if you’re lucky enough to find out it exists).” Since graduating she has returned there, teaching part time on the illustration/design degree course alongside her varied freelance practice that continues to grow. “I’ve focused much more on developing my work into print – I like the accessibility and independence it gives me,” she explains.

As mentioned earlier, Luca recently began translating her work into set design, working with two musicians (Nishla Smith and Tom Harris) in a residency in conjunction with Opera North. “We created a staged song cycle that weaves the memories of Nishla’s grandmother, with a focus on the disappearance of her sister in 1930’s Malaysia,” she explains. “I created a selection of animations that were projection mapped onto the surfaces of the stage. They retain a lot of my own style as opposed to being scenic or pictorial like in usual theatre settings – they often do little to illustrate what’s happening, but more to expand on the themes of the songs.”

The transition into animation actually proved to be a simple one for Luca, as she found it complemented her previous methods of working. “Considering how I naturally create in multiples, making animation in a stop frame way was quite an organic development. I already tended to make collections of drawings that were just slightly different from one another. The only difficulty I found was I work quite freely and without much attention to detail, so that’s created the disjointed, joltiness of the animations.” This worked for some songs, however she says that it did not always fit perfectly with calmer ballads, which forced her to adapt and slow down.

This broad range of work accompanied by forays into new mediums has been a successful one for Luca, but is something that makes a succinct summary of her style quite a task - for both her and us! “I find that quite difficult to do, perhaps because I see myself at such an early stage,” she says. “I feel I’m shape shifting a lot at the moment!”

GalleryAll images by Luca Shaw

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Luca Shaw

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Charlie Filmer-Court

Charlie joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in December 2019. He has previously worked at Monocle 24, and The Times following an MA in International Journalism at City University. If you have any ideas for stories and work to be featured then get in touch.

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