Tony Shiels arrived in St Ives in 1958, with his wife Christine.
He was hungry
for art-world success, and for a few years he played by the rules and his
career went well. But as the sixties developed, he grew impatient with the
limitations of abstract art and the incestuous business of an art colony.
Instead emboldened by the irreverent, libidinal spirit of Dada and
Surrealism, he invented his own rules, and went his own way.
Shiels left St Ives in 1963 in dramatic, controversial
style - in fact in a hail of bullets - and his life became stranger and
more magical. Whilst continuing to paint, he also became active as a
writer and performer. Then, following a series of bizarre
monster-raising stunts, which made television and newspaper headlines
across the world, in the mid-1970’s he and his family became briefly known
across Britain as ‘The weirdest family in the land’.
Shiels’ transformation during those two decades mirrored
the transformation that swept through art and culture in the sixties. As
the hippy generation sought to expand their minds with new drugs and new
spiritual ideas, as the boundaries between ‘high’ and ‘low’ art began to
blur and as sculpture became ‘dematerialised’, Shiels drew on gothic
fiction to create ‘bizarre magic’, and used skills learnt as an artist to
manipulate the public in a brazen and audacious display of theatrical,