(c) courtesy of the artist
52. GARRY SHEAD
The current work, Velázquez and Muse (Homage to Las Meninas), from the ‘Artist and Muse’ series, is from a group of works in which Shead pays homage to the great European Masters – Rembrandt, Goya and Velázquez. The artist first studied these painters in detail during the 1980s when travelling in Europe, it was here he also met his wife, Judith, a classically trained European sculptor. The artist had an immediate connection with Judith - ‘the woman who is my twin of the same kind’1 who would become his muse. He lived with Judith for a year in Budapest before they both returned to Australia in 1983 and married in June of the same year. Shead’s exposure to these masterpieces had a profound effect on him and he continued to draw inspiration for years after his first encounter.
Within the ‘Artist and Muse’ paintings, Shead incorporates a vision of the Muse that inspired their own creative journeys. Some of the artist’s best works from this series include Homage to Goya 1999, The Reflection (Rembrandt) 2000 (sold by Deutscher~Menzies in June 2004) and Artist with Muse - The Unexpected Muse (Velázquez) 2001 (sold by Menzies in September 2014) .The works in this series, from a particularly creative point in the artist’s 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, often hovering ethereally within the composition, bathed in a radiant light.
In each of these works Shead explores the Masters’ creative process by placing himself in the painting. Here, Shead pays homage to Diego Velázquez’s (1599-1660) masterpiece, Las Meninas (c1656), which hangs in the Museo del Prado in Madrid. In the present work, the artist depicts the infant Margarita, the daughter of Felipe IV of Spain (1605-1665), standing in her white dress in the background of the composition. On this occasion, she is without her maids of honour, and gazes towards Shead who has placed himself in the work as Velázquez, locked in a tender embrace with Erato.
‘Shead is an artist who in most instances has to enter the work by putting himself into it – in this case, as 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.’2
Velázquez and Muse (Homage to Las Meninas), is a painting of significant colouristic complexity and demonstrates the artist’s sophisticated technique – the manner in which Shead handles the paint gives the illusion of an internal glow; the effect of light is almost palpable. The early 2000s was a period of intense creativity for the artist and this is seen in the works which were produced. The ‘Artist and Muse’ series all have a common theme, and belong to the same source of inspiration – ‘they all pay homage to the same Muse’.3
1. Interview with Sasha Grishin, quoted in Grishin, S., Garry Shead and the Erotic Muse, Craftsman House, 2001, p.79
2. Grishin, S., ‘Gary Shead: Amazed and Amused’, Australian Art Collector, Issue 14, October – December 2000, p.82
Caroline Jones MA (Art Admin.)