Menzies Art Brands

GARRY SHEAD Artist and the Muse in Studio


Artist and Muse in the Studio from the Artist and the Muse series (1999-2000), pays homage to the Old Masters who have guided and shaped Garry Shead as an artist. Within these paintings, Shead also examines the appearance and role of Erato, the sixth Muse. Sheads interest in the Tarot may underpin his interest in this theme, for the sixth Tarot card is the erotic card, The Lovers. According to the myth, Erato inspired as much with her flesh as through her intellect, and in this series of paintings, Shead depicts on canvas his interpretation of the myth. Shead felt himself to be one of the few who consciously sought out Eratohe felt that he both saw her and heard her and that he was, in a sense, a willing medium through which her inspiration could act.1

Motivated by the academic training that his late wife, Judith, had received in her native Eastern Europe and her mastery of materials and techniques, Shead set about creating this series of paintings that honours the great European Masters one can quite easily detect the lessons that he has learnt from numerous artists, including Francis Bacon, Brett Whiteley, Salvador Dali, Ren Magritte, Pablo Picasso, Goya, Vermeer, Velzquez, Rembrandt and a host of others.2

The works in this series, produced during a particularly creative point in the artists career, depict the Masters in the very act of creation. In each work, the artist is accompanied by the mythical Muse of poetry, Erato, who appears as a revelation. In the current work, she is seated with her back to the artist, bathed in light. The artist stands at his easel while he studies his subject, placing himself in the painting as the artist.

In this instance, we recognise Erato as she may have appeared to the Masters. Shead is an artist who in most instances has to enter the work by putting himself into it whether he be Lawrence, Prince Philip, a dancer, or in this case, an artist. However, entering a composition does not mean that he owns it, as painting grows through its own internal logic and momentum, but he enters it to give it life and then participates in the delight and the agony of its growth and development.3

Artist and the Muse in the Studio, is amongst the best in this group of works. The current work demonstrates the artists distinctive technique; Sheads handling of the paint gives the illusion of an internal glow, the effect of light is almost palpable. This period was one of intense creativity for the artist and this is seen in the unmatched quality of the works which he produced.

1. Grishin, S., Garry Shead and the Erotic Muse, Craftsman House, 2001, p.164
2. Ibid
3. Grishin, S., Gary Shead: Amazed and Amused, Australian Art Collector, Issue 14, October December 2000, p.82

Caroline Jones BA, MA (Art Admin.)

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