THE KISS, 2001 (FROM ARTIST AND THE MUSE SERIES)
oil on canvas
122.0 x 91.5 cm
signed and dated lower right: Garry Shead 01
inscribed with title verso on stretcher bar: THE KISS
Australian Galleries, Sydney (label attached verso)
Kenthurst Galleries, Sydney
Private collection, Sydney, acquired from the above in 2002
Garry Shead: Recent Paintings, Australian Galleries, Melbourne, 16 August – 8 September 2001, cat. 6 (illus. in exhibition catalogue)
The Kiss, 2001 is an important work in a long line of spiritually charged paintings which examine and conceptualise the sixth Muse, Erato. The Nine Muses in Greek mythology are figures drawn from the belief that one could not create anything without the inspiration and guidance of one of the nine daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne. Erato, the muse of lyric poetry, is said to have inspired as much with her flesh as her intellect,1 and is an enduring source of inspiration throughout the artist’s oeuvre. ’Shead felt himself to be one of the few who consciously sought out Erato…he 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.’2
A seamless progression from The Dance series, The Artist and Muse paintings demonstrate the many years that Shead spent studying the European Masters including Rembrandt, Vermeer, Dali and Velazquez. Throughout the series, Shead somewhat analytically explores the role of Erato and her interaction with the artist. The series is an embodiment of Shead’s sense that he is married to his art, and consequently his Muse, with the rest of his life taking a back seat. ‘For Shead, the notion that art is a religion and a total commitment, is an absolute given’.3 Having reached the creative peak of his career in his late fifties, Shead undertook the Artist and Muse series as an undeviating exploration of this prevailing theme of his career. Stimulated by the words of D.H Lawrence, Shead would illuminate the living spirit of a painting by placing himself, the artist, and Erato, the Muse, into its composition, personally participating in the mysticism and passion of the moment.
The muse in The Kiss is iridescent, elevating her presence to a greater spiritual dimension. The encounter is magical and emotionally charged, unattached to neither reality nor any known place. The pair seemingly float in a Chagall-like daydream, with the sensuous charm and beauty of the muse intensified by her alluring dress and luminous skin. The couple are engaged in a trance, spellbound by their private moment and blissfully unaware of their audience. The viewer becomes voyeur, embarking on a clandestine journey into the seductive interior spaces imagined by Shead. The intimate interiors of The Artist and Muse series feature background staircases bathed in warm light, and windows filled with panoramic blue landscapes, alluding to idle paths of escape. The Kiss is an unabashedly pure exploration of the sensuality of Erato, and a testament to the unwavering union between Shead and his angel-winged Muse.
1. Grishin, S., Garry Shead and the Erotic Muse, Craftsman House, Sydney, 2001, p. 162
2. Ibid., p. 164
3. Ibid., p. 166