“Gria Shead keeps the words of Australian still-life artist Margaret Olley in mind as she works. “Margaret always said, ‘Paint what is in front of you’ and it’s a mantra that I live by,” says the Sydney-based artist. “What she meant is not to search too far from what’s close to you and relates to your life. For her, that was painting her home. For me, it is finding a common thread linking me to the interiors of the buildings I paint.”
Gria paints richly coloured, highly detailed figurative works of the interior details of houses. Her paintings from Hill End, where she lived for10 years with her former husband, landscape painter Luke Sciberras, and their daughter, Stella, breathed life into the harsh landscape and frozen pasts of historic houses in the NSW goldrush town.
A quiet vitality pervades Gria’s studies of the smaller objects from lives past, offering an intimate view of their subject. “I like to leave my paintings open, without too much of my take on who might have just walked out of the room,” says the artist. “So, that allows the viewer to look at a painting and imagine themselves in that space and feel a sense of freedom.” Gria’s latest series of work, mainly oil on board, captures tableaux within Vaucluse House, an Historic Houses Trust property in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, originally built by influential colonist William Wentworth, with its overtones of colonial splendour and servitude. “Vaucluse House is a lot prettier than some of the other houses I have painted. I love the aesthetics: the French wallpaper, the exquisite rugs and carpets, and its upstairs opulence. But my favourite part of the house is the servants’ quarters, which act as a wonderful juxtaposition to the grandeur.”
Words by Alex Speed, courtesy Belle magazine, July 2012
Gria Shead is represented in Victoria by the James Makin Gallery.