Person - Rod Shaw

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Rod Shaw was a member of the Workers Art Club ca 1935. He later joined NT and was made a Life Member in 1982. He designed the set and costumes for School for Wives in 1952, followed by posters and programs for Our Dear Relations, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, And A Happy New Year, Rusty Bugles, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Oh, What a Lovely War, Tartuffe and Sandinista. He designed the set and poster for Purlie Victorious and The Captain of Køpenick and the set, costumes and poster for Andorra. There was talk at one time about making his Cuckoo's Nest bird the theatre's logo.

Shaw was a member of the Communist Party of Australia (CPA) from the war years until the Stalin revelations of 1956. During the same period he taught and exhibited with the Studio of Realist Art (SORA), of which he was a founder. (SORA published regular bulletins and held exhibitions at its studio in George Street and at David Jones' Gallery.)

Shaw designed the mural depicting the harsh years of trade unionism, the labour movement and the CPA on a wall at WWF headquarters at 60 Sussex Street and created the artists’ collective to paint it and produce hundreds of May Day posters. (Other members of the artists' collective were Vi Collings, Evelyn Healy, Pat Grahame, Ralph Sawyer and Sonny Glynn.) The wharfies’ mural, painted in three phases, was completed by 1965. In 1991, after 60 Sussex Street was sold, the entire wall was shifted to 61-3 Sussex Street. Ca 1996 it was donated by the Maritime Union of Australia to the Australian Maritime Museum. Shaw also conducted classes for the Wharfies Art Group, and taught drawing and painting in technical colleges, the University of NSW and Arts Council Summer Schools.

A social and political activist, Shaw was instrumental in the founding of several groups. Artists' Action was committed to constitutional reform following the sacking of the Whitlam Labor Government in 1975. Action of Artists was inspired by Lloyd Rees' advocacy for the protection of the national environmental heritage. Shaw was a member of Artists for Nuclear Disarmament in the mid-1980s.

Roderick Malcolm Shaw was born, one of four siblings, at Drummoyne. In 1922 the family moved next door to Burley Griffin’s second house in Castlecrag (it was later inhabited by Edgar Yardley) . Shaw was educated at Willoughby school, Sydney Boys High and East Sydney National Art School. In 1935 he was a foundation member of The Windsor Group of Sydney artists who painted in the Hawkesbury region. In 1989 he published an account of these artists, The Windsor Group 1935-1945. The previous year his Retrospective Exhibition 1938-1988 had been held at the Woolloomooloo Gallery.

In 1939 Shaw and Dick Edwards established The Barn on the Hill Press at Woolloomooloo. During the war Shaw was a camoufleur with the RAAF, and in 1945 he was art director on the Australian New Writing series published by Current Book Distributors in Marx House.

The commercial operations of Dick Edwards and Rod Shaw resumed in 1945 under the imprint of Edwards & Shaw. The respective talents of Dick, a printer and poet, and Rod, a painter and commercial artist, combined to establish a firm which would become synonymous in Australian publishing for exacting standards in book design and production. The firm excelled in small edition publications and in publishing the works of poets, including A. D. Hope's first book of verse The Wandering Islands in 1955. In 1961 Edwards & Shaw published for Penguin Lady Chatterley’s Lover, its cover designed by Shaw, a banned title which challenged book censorship in Australia. Another publication was a book on Castlecrag. Edwards & Shaw closed down production on 11 November 1983.

Rod Shaw married Frances Cottingham in 1939; she died in 1983. Of their three children, daughter Chrissie became an active NT member. Rod Shaw died of cancer on 7 December 1992. The inaugural Edwards & Shaw Lecture was given on 25 July 1993 at the Campbelltown City Bicentennial Art Gallery by Harry Stein (1919 - 1994), journalist and jazz aficionado, and long-time friend.

Harry Stein had produced with Shaw's assistance the exhibition Artists & Rebels on the Waterfront, 1939-1992. His From The Barn on the Hill to Edwards & Shaw, 1939-1983 was published posthumously in 1996. It included documentation on The Trial of Lady Chatterley.

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