Abstract Australis
Abstract Australis
Brighton, Victoria 3186 Australia
Ph: 0407 501 808
ABN: 66 086 690 771

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Garry SHEAD (b.1942)

Garry Shead (b.1942) is one of Australia’s most inventive and exciting contemporary artists.  Admired as both a painter and printmaker, Shead’s works explore a distinctive fascination with the Australian landscape.  An allegorical painter, Shead’s oeuvre is punctuated by a wide-ranging bank of memorable characters and series.  Among his most recognisable and best-loved are the body of works inspired by D. H. Lawrence’s semi-autobiographic novel, ‘Kangaroo’ written in 1922 while the author sojourned in the town of Thirroul on the New South Wales South coast near Wollongong.

Sheads D.H. Lawrence suite is profound homage to love, resplendent with poetic metaphors on human existence and set against the unmistakable, vivid blue, of the Australian sky. Lawrence’s characters Richard Somers and his wife Harriet faithfully feature in their scenes usually accompanied by an awkward kangaroo, representing the novel’s antagonist, CooleyEach scene is anchored in the original manuscript, however Shead overlays the author’s imagery with snapshots and clues from his own experiences of the landscape and of love itself.

Shead first started reading Lawrence’s work in 1968 and remained fascinated by the story in subsequent decades.  During the seventies, he painted the first Lawrence inspired works comprising small portraits and scenes that the author visited along the South Coast fifty years previously, including a celebrated collaboration with Brett Whiteley (1939-92).

Shead commenced his now famed series of large scale paintings on ‘Kangaroo’ in the late eighties, after moving to Bundeena with his wife, in 1987.  This idyllic coastal inlet, a mere stone’s throw from Sydney, signaling the creative apotheosis of over four decades of personal and philosophical fascination with Lawrence.  Shead and Judith at Bundeena, felt a particular affinity for Lawrence’s protagonists and for Lawrence himself, who had shared a home with his own wife Freida on the same magnificent stretch of sapphire coast.

The Somers here are the embodiment of a recurrent theme throughout Shead’s oeuvre: erotic impulse, used to symbolise creative union and belonging to place“While Shead did not view himself as a re-incarnation of the writer, this series of paintings establishes a complex pattern of synchronicity and interchangeable identities and temporalities between the three couples.”*  By blurring the lines between the physical markers of his own reality with the slightly surreal and mythical, Shead constructs his own brand of magical realism. 

The D. H. Lawrence series remain Shead’s most acclaimed and sought-after paintings.  Shead was awarded the prestigious Archibald Prize in 1993 for his portrait of the artist Tom Thompson.  In 2004 he was awarded the Dobell Prize for Drawing for his diptych Colloquy with John Keats.  Shead has held over fifty solo exhibitions and participated in more than seventy group shows.  His work is represented in the National Gallery of Australia, all the state galleries and most regional galleries. 

* Grishin, S., Garry Shead and the Erotic Muse, Craftsman House, Sydney, 2001, p. 94


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