Rupert White

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  Research project on Tony 'Doc' Shiels: culminating in a publication in 2015.

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, imaginative daring.


 (excerpt from Monstermind)