IT was a daunting commission for any artist.
But the challenge for Huddersfield-born artist Phil Shaw was one he was delighted to accept.
Dr Shaw was chosen to create a thought-provoking gift fit for world leaders reinforcing the message of the G8 Summit, including US president Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The commission itself came from Prime Minister David Cameron, while Dr Shaw was on a bus!
“Once I realised it wasn’t a joke, I felt flabbergasted, excited, nervous and finally ever so slightly overwhelmed,” he said.
He decided that his trademark bookshelf works would be suitable for the eight world leaders assembled in Northern Ireland for the G8 summit.
The presidency is rotated each year and this year is the responsibility of the UK to host and organise the G8. The Prime Minister was keen to choose a gift of meaning and longevity and therefore artist and lecturer Dr Shaw had been selected to create a special gift.
Shaw got to work on an idea for a print, and delivered the first version of ‘The Group of Eight’ last month.
Shaw chose to create a bookshelf print comprising titles which address, or in some way reflect, 2013 G8 issues.
Economics features in many of the titles, Nobel Prize winners, Oxford Dons and Harvard professors being prominent among the authors.
But Shaw added a twist – the first word of the title of each book, read from right to left, completes a quote from the 18th century economist and moral philosopher, Adam Smith, known as the father of free trade and modern economics.
It reads: “What can be added to the Happiness of a Man who is in health, out of debt and has a clear conscience”.
Shaw was brought up in Huddersfield and spent seven years at art school, starting at Huddersfield School of Art, then Leeds College of Art and culminating in studying printmaking at The Royal College of Art in London.
He now teaches printmaking at Middlesex University and admits that he stumbled accidentally on his winning bookshelf formula.
Shaw paints with pixels and light in the computer using a mouse in a frenetic manner.
“I’m a mouse man. I could never get used to the tablet.
“I work at high magnifications (up to 600%) in order to get details such as the worn out and hairy bits just right.
“I can spend hours over a single bit of worn text or the minute shadow cast by an embossed letter.”