(Australia 1942– )
102.0 x 152.0cm each sheet; 111.6 x 160.9 x 3.1cm each frame
This drawing is based on two scandals of Australian cultural life that occurred in 1944: the Ern Malley literary hoax and the court case that followed the award of the 1943 Archibald Prize to William Dobell. These two affairs have since become defining events in the history of the debate between avant-garde and conservative tendencies in Australian culture. The Dobell case is referenced in the left sheet of the drawing, where there is affixed a 1944 press clipping, ‘Art’s intolerance to art’, referring to the case in which two artists, Mary Edwards and Joseph Wolinski, filed a case in the Equity Court against the AGNSW trustees for their decision to award the 1943 Archibald Prize to Dobell for his portrait of Joshua Smith. Their central contention was that the painting was not a ‘portrait’, but was, rather, a caricature, and therefore ineligible for the prize.
The title of the drawing – 'Colloquy with John Keats' – is taken from the eponymous poem by fictitious poet ‘Ern Malley’, whose series, 'The darkening ecliptic', was published by editor Max Harris in the autumn 1944 edition of the
literary journal 'Angry penguins'. The 17 poems of the series were in fact written by two conservative young poets, James McAuley and Harold Stewart, who were highly critical of modernist tendencies in contemporary literature. They
composed The darkening ecliptic in an afternoon using stream-of-consciousness technique, choosing words and phrases from a dictionary, a collected Shakespeare and a book of quotations.
Shead’s drawing makes lyrical reference to key figures in the Ern Malley affair, including Ern Malley himself, as well as extracts from the poems and references made or evoked in them. For Shead, ‘Ern Malley became the symbol of the
creative spirit at odds with a materialist world in which he is always an itinerant, an outsider and ultimately a sacrifice’ (Sasha Grishin, 2008). Shead’s longstanding interest in the controversy and appreciation for the intrinsic quality of the poems has been expressed in paintings, drawings, collages, prints and ceramics, and shown in a series of exhibitions on the theme between 2003 and 2005 and a book by Sasha Grishin, Garry Shead: the apotheosis of Ern Malley, published in 2007.
Hendrik Kolenberg (Netherlands; Australia) (Author), Anne Ryan (Australia) (Author), Helen Campbell (Australia) (Author), Contemporary Australian Drawing: 20 years of the Dobell Prize for Drawing, Sydney, 2012, 9, 42, 43 (colour illus.), 61.
Sasha Grishin AM (Australia) (Author), Garry Shead: the apotheosis of Ern Malley, Collingwood, 2008, 112–113 (colour illus.), 114–117 (colour illus. details).
Hendrik Kolenberg (Netherlands; Australia) (Author), Anne Ryan (Australia), The Dobell Prize for Drawing: 1993-2004, Sydney, 2004, cover (colour illus., detail), 38 (colour illus.), 39 (colour illus.), 50, 54.
‘Exhibitions: critic’s picks’, pg. 27., The Sydney Morning Herald 17 Sep 2004-23 Sep 2004, 17 Sep 2004-23 Sep 2004, 27.
‘Drawing is making its mark’ by Jude McBean, pg. 24., The Daily Examiner 11 Sep 2004, 11 Sep 2004, 24 (illus., detail).
‘Line honours’ by Peter Hill, pg. 19., The Sydney Morning Herald 04 Sep 2004-05 Sep 2004, 04 Sep 2004-05 Sep 2004, 19 (colour illus., detail). Spectrum supplement
‘Inspired by fraud’ by Elizabeth Fortescue, pg. 72., The Daily Telegraph 27 Aug 2004, 27 Aug 2004, 72 (colour illus.). Shead is pictured standing in front of the work.
‘Insightful artist finds truth even in a literary hoax’ by Sharon Verghis, pg. 23., The Sydney Morning Herald 21 Aug 2004-22 Aug 2004, 21 Aug 2004-22 Aug 2004, 23 (colour illus.). Shead is pictured standing in front of the work.
‘Fictitious poet inspires Dobell-winning drawing’ by Rosalie Higson, pg. 10., The Weekend Australian 21 Aug 2004-22 Aug 2004, 21 Aug 2004-22 Aug 2004, 10 (colour illus.). Shead is pictured standing in front of the work.
‘Shead’s top drawer win’ by Elizabeth Fortescue., The Daily Telegraph 21 Aug 2004, 21 Aug 2004. page number unknown
Dobell Prize for Drawing 2004, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 21 Aug 2004–17 Oct 2004.
Garry Shead: The Apotheosis of Ern Malley, Hazelhurst Regional Gallery and Arts Centre, 04 Dec 2004–06 Feb 2005.
Contemporary Australian Drawing: 20 Years of the Dobell Drawing Prize, Grafton Regional Gallery, 15 Feb 2013–24 Mar 2013.