On the Shoulders of Giants

 

“On the Shoulders of Giants” – One who develops future intellectual pursuits by understanding the research and works created by notable thinkers of the past.

In 2006, Josh Agle returned to Outre Gallery for his fifth solo exhibition of original paintings with shows in both Melbourne and Sydney, Australia. In On the Shoulders of Giants, Shag created 20 original works, infusing his own playful twists and crisp style in remakes of some of his favorite paintings by 19th and 20th century masters, like Picasso, Renoir, Matisse and Van Gogh.

 

 

The title, “On the Shoulders of Giants,” is a fitting one. Shag seems to have complimented the great noble artists of the past, by painting intellectual modern-day versions of their classic Post Impressionism works. By utilizing his unique 50’s and 60’s illustration style, Shag was able to take great masterpieces and make them his own.

 

Famous works by Pablo Picasso are some of his best examples. Shag’s re-creation of The Young Ladies of Avignon, from Picasso’s African period, reflects Picasso’s African sculpture influence, through the tribal-like masks the two girls are wearing. Shag makes it his own, though, through the mix of modern interior details he’s so well known for – rock walls and architectural wall sculptures. The masks are also a bit more Polynesian in style in Shag’s version, versus Picasso’s Fang tribe influence. Shag continues with his own spin by converting an abstract plate of fruit into a Spanish symbolism found in many of Picasso’s works, a bull. Continuing in Shag form, he adds very common place items often found within his paintings, a liquor bottle with glasses. 

  

 

Of all the works in the series, Shag’s remake of Picasso’s Blue Period classic, The Old Guitarist is easily the most identifiable. The guitarist’s angular posture is one of the defining elements of Picasso’s work, and Shag has accentuated the sharp angles with his crisp lines in his own version. Shag has also updated the painting to a modern day setting, with a skyline full of high-rise buildings outside the guitarist’s window. The guitar itself, a Morsite Ventures model, is the same one that appeared in his original, Five Planets. It’s no wonder that Shag incorporates this style guitar into some of his works. He has a passion for Morsite Ventures guitars and owns several.

Matisse Henri - Akt im Studio - Quai St. Michel 

 

Matisse is another favorite in the series. Studio Quai St. Michel was replicated down to each detail of the original French classic. However, as with all Shag paintings, he brings the work into razor-sharp focus through his crisp detail in brushwork. Shag sharpens up the random three drawings within the painting in classic form, illustrating a tiki idol, and two nude portraits, which are unmistakably “Shag”. The Paris view outside the window is mirrored well, replicating the classic French architecture. Of course, it’s common practice by Shag to create something out of place, in this case a marionette-like puppet, sitting on a mid-century Eames plywood chair. A lot of pre-planning and thought goes into a Shag original. You may notice Shag likes to often place items within his paintings in odd numbers or in groups of three. For example, there are three goldfish in the fish bowl and there are three subject faces in the painting, the nude woman, the puppet and his reflection.

 

                       

 

In Shag’s most unusual painting of the series, and in some ways his most striking, he portrays a much different take on the 1948 classic Christina’s World, created by American painter Andrew Wyeth. Shag’s version of Christina’s World is easily identifiable in many ways – a woman lying at the base of a hill, gazing up to a home on the horizon across a vast barren landscape. However, when learning of Wyeth’s inspiration to the piece, the painting doesn’t seem to convey the same emotions that Wyeth captures. In Shag’s version, there’s a bikini-clad girl, who appears to be enjoying an afternoon of music on a comfortable blanket, just downhill from what could be her very sheik mid-century home (which is actually the famous Rose Seidler House). Shag’s use of color and addition of Mary Blair-like trees gives the piece a dramatic effect. In Wyeth’s painting, the girl is actually crawling because she is paralyzed from the waist down. Wyeth was inspired to create the painting when through a window from within the house he saw her crawling across a field.

 

In all, Shag paid tribute to nearly a dozen artists, which also included Degas, Brack, Rousseau, Ingres, Copley, and Gauguin. He also painted an original work of Rose Seidler’s House, a Bauhaus-styled home in the suburbs of Sydney, Australia, which was built in 1948 by the late architect Larry Seidler. Shag released a limited edition serigraph of the colorful work, which sold-out quickly and can now only be found in rare artist proof releases.

Shag will be returning to Australia in 2010 for his seventh solo exhibition there. Maybe we can hope to see “On the Shoulders of More Giants.”

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2 Responses to “On the Shoulders of Giants”

  1. Faith Says:

    I suppose I would note, on a kind of cross-reference to your own site, your review of what you title “Welcome To Your New Lifestyle” (titled on our print “Welcome To Your New Beautiful Lifestyle”). There is the same concept of his art imitating something aesthetically revered. This exhibit is about the masters, that piece (as I learned from your review) is an imitation of the pinnacle of mid-century design.

  2. Kris Goman Says:

    You’ve got a type there. It’s Harry Seidler, not Larry.
    I wish I’d seen this exhibition. I particularly like the Brack one too. 5pm on Collins St. It’s an Australian classic painting.

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