Menzies Art Brands



Garry Shead is one of Australias most renowned artists for his poetic depictions of Australian culture and the essence of human love.  Arguably amongst his most powerful series, Dance Sequence, is one of the artists most adored series and that includes the present work, Intimate Couple 2000. The Dance Sequence series are a platform in which Shead explores his personal impressions of life, self and the eternal dance of love; they also illustrate the artists admiration of the Old Masters.

The artist began the Dance Sequence in the mid-nineties and revisited this theme numerous times since then.  The series exemplifies Sheads struggles with identity as artist and man and was the precursor to his Artist and Muse series.  Within the Dance Sequence series, Garry Shead projects himself into each painting, assuming the identity of the protagonist and participating as in a dream - emotionally present yet physically removed. In addition to what can be read into the literal interpretation of the subject matter, the artists presence is profound.  Shead has reflected that a work of art must have its origin in the life of the artist himself.  To express the great emotions is the purpose of a work of art.1

The artists biographer, art academic Sasha Grishin, asserts that there is an erotic impulse driving Sheads creative surge and is his entry point into his art making.2  The present  work, Intimate Couple 2000, depicts two lovers in a tender embrace whilst gazing amorously into each others eyes.  The striking peculiarity of the work, like other works from this series, is that the male figure is fully clad whilst the female figure is naked.  This mystical woman is perhaps an apparition of the artists latent desires, his sensuality awakened and explored through oils and brush.

One wonders, is this mystical Muse really there? Or does she exist only as a symbolic manifestation of our protagonists inner thoughts;  like an echo of the darker, ambiguous, sensual and ever-longing element of lust that lingers in the dormant soul of The Dancer, and of course, Shead himself.

An element that transcends the artistic visual plane of this painting is the poetic lyricism of the multifaceted subject matter that emanates from the concealed energy in the artists subjects and imagery.  Sheads biographer Dr Sasha Grishin recounts - Increasingly, these intimate interior settings allude to an ambiguous and seductive dream-like reality, where ideas and interpretations float free from gravity and verbal associations.3

Shead has acutely observed the traditions and methods of the old masters throughout his entire artistic career. Rembrandt (1606-1669), Goya (1746-1848) and Velazquez (1599-1660) were all keenly studied in Sheads visual diaries and the Dance Sequence  is perhaps the most indicative of the artists affection for the rich, vibrant palette employed by the European giants of painting.  A harmonious combination is created in this work between the romantic art of the past and the timelessness of love and desire.

As well as being one of Australias most celebrated artists, Garry Shead has received significant attention abroad since the mid-1960s.  His paintings are held in the National Gallery of Australia, all Australian state galleries, significant regional galleries and important private and public collections, both nationally and internationally.


1. Garry Shead as cited in Grishin, S., Garry Shead and the Erotic Muse, Craftsman House, Sydney, 2001, p.12
2. Ibid, p.11
3. Ibid, p.166

Tessa Adele Dorman BFA, MA (Art History and Theory)

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