Gria Shead sees, beyond the veil of conventional story-telling and hero worship, the breadth and contemporaneity of the experience of otherness in the Australian context.
The core motif of Australian history is that of its patriot sons and their conquests of country and adversity. Celebrated in words and art, myths were created by men about men—and white men at that. But what of the marginalised peoples in our early history—the women, the political refugees from old-world England and Ireland, the dispersed Indigenous people, and the Chinese immigrants on the goldfields? A less lapidary version of the Australian story is a work-in-progress for contemporary scholars, analysts and artists.
Gria Shead has dedicated her career to investigating and painting the women of early Australia. Having spent ten years living and working in the gold-rush town of Hill End, New South Wales, the lot of the colonial women—who were not so much written out of history as never actually perceived as substantially figuring in it—has intrigued her. When one delves deeply into the stories of Australia, a powerful yet rarely acknowledged force that provides a compelling backstory—interrogating the structure of Australia’s conventional mythos—is revealed.