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Throughout Sheads celebrated career he has struck the fine balance of referencing the figurative world that surrounds him, yet also shrouding his works in ambiguous allegory leaving the viewer to ponder the scenes before them. Studying at the National Art School between 1961 and 1962 and before finding success as an artist, Shead was an editor of publications related to Oz magazine whilst also working as a scenic artist and film editor for the ABC during the 1960s. Sheads works possess a distinct figurative style and whimsical tone that evoke both the poetic and lyrical which can be seen through the mythic lens.1

The narrative passages which have been present throughout Sheads career reach a pinnacle in Taurus 2011. Created directly after Sheads Love at Mount Pleasant series he returns to his most revered subject matter, The Artist and Muse, cleverly connotating ideas of beauty and the beast. Sasha Grishin comments: Shead has always experienced the inner voice of the imagination which in its manifestation needed consummation through the external catalyst, which may be termed Erato, or the Erotic Muse.2 Shead contemplates this tandem notion of duality with direct reference to the Greek Mythology of Taurus, as referenced in the title of the work. Taurus derives from two narratives centring around the bull Cerus. The first highlights the tumultuous love story of Zeus and Europa: Zeus fell in love with the Phoenician princess Europa, capturing her attention by morphing into a white bull with golden horns. Mesmerised by the stunning creature Europa climbed upon its back and rode Cerus towards the beach, who jumped into the sea kidnapping Europa to the Island of Crete and revealing himself as Zeus. The second highlights the relationship between the wild bull Cerus and the Goddess of Spring, Persephone. Cerus uncontrollably rampaged through villages destroying everything in his path, untameable until Persephone put her hands on him. Although the pair could not speak as they were woman and beast, an unbreakable bond was born.

Sheads narrative voice has captured the Erato in numerous forms, undergoing many changes and interoperations leading the viewer to the most recent manifestation, Beast and Beauty.3 The present work captures an intimate moment between beauty and beast. A softness is present highlighted through the afternoon light pouring in and hitting the back wall of Sheads studio. Fine translucent drapery covers the nude female form while she looks away from the artist at work, physically present yet elusive through her coy gaze. The beast prepares to start work on his blank canvas; a human hand clutches a paint brush while the stare of the bull is fixated on his muse. The audience is aware they have been afforded a glimpse into the complex nature of Sheads relationship with is subject matter.

It is through Sheads own sentiment that notions of the relationship between artist and erotic muse are explored; approached through an alternate lens of beast and beauty, yet who is tantalising who? As the Greek Mythology of Taurus shows the relationship is mutually beneficial, each personally gaining from their association to one and other. Taurus highlights Sheads complexities as an artist and his relationship to his subject, yielding further insight into the multifaceted archetypes that populate his oeuvre. 



1. Grishin, S., Garry Shead: Amazed and Amused, Australian Art Collector, October December 2000, no.14, p.80
2. Grishin, S., Garry Shead and the Erotic Muse, Craftsman House, Sydney, 2001, p.78
3. Ibid., p.11

Clementine Retallack, BA





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