Garry Shead: Encounters with Royalty
On 5 February 1954, when Garry Shead was just twelve years old, he was taken with other boys from his school to the Sydney Showground to welcome Queen Elizabeth II. Images of the Queen and references to the royal visit start to occur in Garry Shead's art in the 1960s and come to fruition in a major series of paintings of the mid-1990s. While the 'Royal Suite' paintings do engage the republican discourse and many of the images comment on this absurd queen who moves incongruously amongst her subjects, they also comment on feelings of tenderness, on erotic yearnings and on royal fantasies. Dr. Sasha Grishin argues that the 'Royal Suite' paintings are icons of their time. They refer to a state of innocence in Australia in the 1950s with Blinky Bill koalas and wide-eyed subjects who gather to worship this three-eyed white goddess. They also provide us with glimpses of a reality which we only realised much later, with the Aboriginal people marginalised and exploited, and Australian sovereignty subverted. Perhaps more importantly, they relate to an Australian reality of the 1990s where, by exorcising the daydream fantasies of the past, we can prepare ourselves for independence in the future.
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