Showman artist sprinkles a little more of his 'sea head' magic
Artist, author, playwright, musician and magician Tony Shiels has a life-long passion for the coast and sea.
I write this looking at a "sea head" he gave me some years ago, which bore the message: "Like the oceans it epitomises, the sea head can be calm or savagely wild. It can never be truly tamed. It is beautifully uncivilised."
Words that describe the artist himself, they are worth bearing in mind when viewing the latest exhibition of past and present work on show at Fernlea Gallery in St Ives.
Known to all as "Doc", Shiels was born in Lancashire to Scots and Irish parents and spent much of his life in Cornwall – first in St Ives and later Ponsanooth. He studied in Blackpool, at the Heatherley School of Art, London, and at the Academy Andre Lhote in Paris, before moving to St Ives in the late 1950s. This was the heyday of the town's post-war avant garde art movement and his contemporaries included painter Roger Hilton and the poet Sydney Graham.
Elected to the committee of the Penwith Society of Arts, Doc began to exhibit throughout the UK. It was during this time that he developed an interest in the continuous line in drawing, inventing what he called Rheotism, a style in which flow and humour, eroticism and surrealism came together in works that often puzzled but emitted an alchemical and lyrical potency.
Both shaman and showman, Doc once conjured up the monster Morgawr in Falmouth Bay, while Mr Punch, dancing police ladies, tigers and Guinness have all played their part in what he has called "the great game show" of his life.
From early landscapes to those made since he moved a dozen years ago to County Kerry in Ireland, this exhibition leaves one in no doubt of his stature as a painter.
I couldn't swear to it but, such is Doc Shiels' magic that as I wrote those last few words I do believe the sea head on my wall gave me a wink.
Tony Doc Shiels' work is at Fernlea Gallery in St Ives from 11am to 5pm Monday-Saturday until mid-September. Admission is free.