According to ancient Greek mythology, Zeus’s nine daughters, the Muses, were the source of all knowledge and inspiration. Artists and authors from the ancient world invoked their wisdom when beginning to hone their craft.

The poet Kallimachos, for example, imagined being schooled in secret by the Muses in the first verses of his epic 7000-line poem, The Aitia. The poem contemplates the origins or causes of cities, customs and traditions – and is itself the muse for Charlie Sheard’s latest exhibition at Olsen Irwin gallery in Paddington, Aitia.

Working within the realm of pure abstraction, Sheard often parallels his painting with spirituality in Ancient Greek histories and with poetry. In Aitia, fine layers of colour streak, wash and pool together on each great canvas. In the piece Aition 2 [EWK - LJW] pale metallic gold acrylic is spilt across inverted drips of violet and vibrant green. The collection also features works on paper in acrylic and watercolours and torn fragments taken from the artist’s studies and tests, still displaying his unique knack for layering, texture and colour.

Sheard believes abstraction is “a kind of antidote to the extreme materialism of our moment”, capable of offering up a far more pure and ethereal vision of beauty. To Sheard, Kallimachos’s ancient poem reminds us that “the work of art is divine in origin, a reminder that is as timely today as it was in the third century BCE”.

Charlie Sheard’s Aitia shows until October 6 at Olsen Irwin Gallery, 63 Jersey Road, Woollahra.

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