Have you ever recognised yourself in a work of fiction?
In 1968, while traversing the highlands of Papua New Guinea, Garry Shead had such an experience. It hit while reading the writings of D H Lawrence, whom Shead learned came to Australia in 1922 to write the novel 'Kangaroo'. Inspired by politics and the Australian landscape, 'Kangaroo' struck Shead deeply - inspiring his highly acclaimed D H Lawrence series.
‘Afternoon Tea’ stems from this series. In it, a couple is pictured having tea with a kangaroo. Shead frustrates the boundaries between reality and fiction merging himself with Lawrence and Lawrence with his characters. The result is almost dreamlike - an inadvertent meditation on mythology, postmodernism and identity.
When reflecting on his representation of kangaroos, Shead admits that they were an uncommon subject in ‘serious’ Australian art - “kangaroos were kitsch”. For him, however, they harboured a personal resonance that reached back to childhood, when Shead shot and killed one with his father. “I was shattered”. Thus, as a kind of repentance, Shead paints his kangaroos as noble, even divine characters, worthy of high tea.
‘Afternoon Tea’ is quintessential Shead. Layered with literary, art historical and personal allusion, it also lays bare the stark beauty of the Australian landscape. Lawrence wrote of this beauty that it “seems to lurk just beyond the range of our white vision”. Here it comes into focus.
Collected by all public institutions, Shead has won the Archibald and Dobell prizes. Frollicking in the serious and profane, his work is at once heartfelt and interrogative. This significant work is a prize piece for serious collectors of Australian Modern art, as well as all who rejoice in a good story. Tea anyone?
Garry SHEAD (1942 - )
'Afternoon Tea' 1995
oil on board
Image Size: 28 x 33 cm
Signed: Signed lower middle: Garry Shead 95
Comes with Letter of Provenance
© Garry Shead / Copyright Agency 2020