The practice of American artist Jim Shaw spans a wide range of both artistic media and visual imagery. Since the 1970s, Shaw has mined the detritus of American culture, finding inspiration for his artworks in comic books, pulp novels, rock albums, protest posters, thrift store paintings and advertisements. At the same time, Shaw has consistently turned to his own life and, in particular, his unconscious, as a source of artistic creativity. Providing a blend of the personal, the commonplace and the uncanny, Shaw’s works frequently place in dialogue images of friends, family members, world events, pop culture and alternate realities. Often unfolding in long-term, narrative cycles, the works contains systems of cross-references and repetitions, which rework similar symbols and motifs, allowing a story-like thread to be perceived.
Shaw’s ongoing project Oism contains a narrative core and ironically challenges the norms of an artwork. Marking Shaw’s attempt to create a functioning religion, complete with its own narratives, totems and traditions, Oism is drawn from a profound degree of research initiated in the early 1990s into the history of American religious practice and finds inspiration in the messianic cults active in America’s Bible belt. The creation and study of O-ism has fuelled a wide range of artworks-cum-artefacts, and includes, amongst others, paintings, photographs, sculptures, collages, posters, films and musical instruments.