From studying music at the Royal Academy of Music in London and teaching piano while in Middlesbrough, to her successful painting career that began with her training at the Middlesbrough College of Arts, Margaret Shields has consistently led a creative life, one that has a deep understanding of the great dichotomies of our modern world. Living and working in urban environments like London and Middlesbrough before moving to her studio in Saltburn-by-the-Sea, Shields has made many different environments the subject of her paintings. From bustling urban scenes that depict a redemptive attitude to what others would term ‘urban wastelands’*., to tranquil seascapes exploring our societies relationships with the sea and its shorelines.
"It doesn't take much to make ordinary things look extraordinary.” Margaret Shields
Shields’s pieces focus on the human ability to adapt to any environment. Scenes peppered with humour and vitality are the backdrop to her depiction of unchanging human nature, each brushstroke reminiscent of a wry smile. From coal gatherers and skateboarders to swimmers and dogwalkers, the human element is ever present in her landscapes, making her paintings universal in their appeal and pride of place in countless exhibitions and private collectIons.
Detail. Bank Holiday Promenade
Detail. Our Morning Walk
"My paintings are evocative rather than views of specific places. This is what gives them their wider rather than local appeal.’ Margaret Shields
Tranquil notes flow into two sunsets ‘Hazel Grove’ and ‘A Light at Sea’. The painterly luminosity of the orange sky is complimented by darkening pink and purple foreground of windswept scrubland with a lone figure on the coastal path. As in all Shield’s works abstract counterpoint weaves through in a pleasing harmonious whole. In terms of colour we move from orange, through green to purple (for artistic aficionados they are tertiary complimentary harmonious colours.
In terms of content we move from a tiny figure, cows and scratching trees, to the mass of a wood and sky, intersected by a hazy horizon of distant sea and docks. A symphonic masterpiece.
Margaret Shield’s early work went through several developments - Never one to rest on her laurels - as life progresses and moves.Some works at different stages in her career.
Margaret Shield’s visit and stay in Todmorden in the spring of 2016, was blessed with typical April showers, rather downpours. How she managed to conjure up 5 or 6 masterful oil paintings is amazing. While much needed tea and cake, shelter and sympathy was given in abundance back in the gallery, we quizzed Margaret’s partner, who divulged that his main task, apart from chauffeur and PR, was to hold a huge golfing umbrella to protect artwork and artist alike from the worst of the deluge that Calderdale could offer. The gathering of sketches and notes were later developed into the fine oils you can see as an offshoot to her current solo exhibition’
Four fine works were worth such heroic efforts, of Todmorden Town Hall, the Hipperdrome and three from Walsden. The triangles of slanting factory roof, the old temporary library, the imposing Town Hall, and warm red stone of the Theatre are all the backdrop to life in Todmorden, people going about daily comings and goings, all captured with such character and gentle humour.
‘From Sea to Shore’
I live in a small town, which is on a cliff, by the sea, so sea related subjects are the theme of this exhibition.
The first thing we see when we turn right out of our front gate is the sea, so we walk down the street towards it where we have to decide whether to turn right or left, depending upon the direction or force of the wind. On gentler mornings we approach the sea direct and search the horizon. How many ships are waiting to go into Teesport? Is the tide out?
Sometimes in early summer the sea is a gentle blue haze and it will be then and in better times when many people will enjoy being on the beach. It will not be for a while, but I hope we shall see it again one day. Margaret Shields 2021
Our Morning Walk - ‘Close to and all around the town are superb countryside and coastal areas. It is an area of industry and at the same time great natural beauty.
Do you wonder that my paintings contain sombre tones combined with flashes and flames of vapour, brilliant sunsets, and stormy skies? This "iron coast" is an exotic and strong landscape, which is not conventional 'scenery'.
My paintings are evocative rather than views of specific places. This is what gives them their wider rather than local appeal.’ Margaret Shields
Against the backdrop of the North Sea, the shoreline of Saltburn-by-the-Sea is as much a collaborator within her work as Shields herself. Raised by her Master Mariner father, Shields’s relationship with the sea began at birth, and it is the sea she spends her time with now in her studio overlooking the busy maritime traffic at the mouth of the River Tees. The North Sea has many associations, and many that are found within the brushstrokes of Shields’s work, of a working sea, one that sustains the lives of those who live upon it. From cod fishing to North Sea oil rigging, to lighthouse keeping and holidaying, people and the North Sea have been closely intertwined for as long as the history remembers.
It is this relationship and this environment that has inspired Shields’s most recent solo exhibition ‘From Shore to Sea: Storms, Breezes, and Hazes.’ In contrast with the usual public perception of coastal towns as leisurely seaside resorts, Shields’s views of the at once turbulent and tranquil sea serve as a counterpart to this, depicting deep sea shipping, global trade, and large crafts on the horizon battling with the elements in a further exploration of the energised clash between the old and new. Abigail Braim 2021
There is a true ‘Back to the Sea’ feel to the whole exhibition of over 20 works. The oil painting of that title is in part a portrait of the famous pier at Saltburn, here pounded by a grey stormy sea, depicted with bravado sweeps of the brush, never overindulgent, but always exciting. And still the ships chug along on the horizon, while daredevil youths defy Poseidon, so well observed by Shields. Stand for a while in front of this, or indeed any of Shield’s expressive works you can almost hear, feel and touch crashing waves as they boom against and under the pier, proving her to be one of our foremost contemporary maritime artists.