Wishfullment | Garry Shead Paintings and Graphics

Garry Shead, an Archibald and Dobell Prize winner, is as collectable as he is elusive. His work entwines myth - private, allegorical and national - to bend the boundary between truth, fiction, reality and fantasy. Whether identifying with a long-passed writer or courting his erotic muse, Shead’s vision is supple. It is humorous and tragic, elegant and naive, timeless yet boldly Australian. 

The Curious Case of the Kangaroo 

Shead is perhaps best known for his series about English author DH Lawrence’s 1923 book, Kangaroo. Despite being written twenty years before his birth, Shead resonated deeply with Lawrence’s book, coincidentally reading it where it is set: Thirroul in New South Wales. 

The resulting series merged Shead’s life with Lawrence’s writing. A looming kangaroo recurs, symbolic of both the book and Shead’s childhood experience of shooting one; “I was shattered”, he recounts. Set among the scrubland of Australia’s coastline, the DH Lawrence series treats the landscape as literary and the kangaroos, associated with the kitsch, as a noble, even divine creature.


“[There is an] invisible beauty of Australia, which is undeniably there, but which seems to lurk just beyond the range of our white vision.” Garry Shead

Garry Shead ‘The Continent of the Kangaroo’

A Dance with Erato 

Muses also recur throughout Shead’s work. They are Ancient Greek goddesses, nudes and phantoms, visiting artist studios, the landscape and tea parties. The lyricism with which Shead captures them belies something deeper. Like the thrilling twists and turns of a Greek myth, Shead dances with the duality of tragedy and comedy, beauty and risk, distraction and inspiration. His work is as much about its subject as it is the act of imagining. 

The final word is Shead’s. In his diary, the artist once quoted Dostoevsky, writing: 

“The world will be saved by beauty.” 

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