Garry Shead 1942 –
Garry Shead’s works are often described as having a narrative, interpretive style. This leaning may have begun with his work in the print and film media where he had cartoons published in newspapers and magazines in the 1960s while he studied at the National Art School. When he completed his studies there, he worked as a scenic artist and film editor at the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC).
Shead began travelling while working for the ABC, after having won the Young Contemporaries Prize in 1967. He spent time in Japan and Papua New Guinea, then later in France, Vienna and Budapest. While in Papua New Guinea, he first became familiar with the letters of the English writer and poet DH Lawrence. This later became the inspiration for a series of artworks that were Shead’s interpretation of Lawrence’s novel ‘Kangaroo’. The artist Brett Whiteley was a friend of Shead’s and they were both very interested in DH Lawrence. The two of them travelled to Thirroul, NSW in the early 1970s to see where Lawrence had stayed while on route to the United States in the 1920s, and where he had completed the novel.
The successful DH Lawrence series completed in 1992 was followed by another titled ‘The Royal Suite’ in the mid 1990s. ‘The series depicted a young Queen Elizabeth II in the Australian landscape and were informed in part by the artist’s own childhood experience of being taken by his school… to Sydney’s showgrounds to welcome the young Monarch during her national tour of Australia in 1954.’3
It was during this time in 1993 that Shead won the sought-after Archibald portrait prize for a painting of his publisher friend Tom Thompson.
Shead’s works are instantly recognizable for their slightly cartoonish, whimsical appearance that is interpretive storytelling, often focusing on the spirituality or philosophical nature of the subject matter.