Edward (Ted) May (1939-.) Australia

Biographical Information

Born at Ryde, NSW on the 27 January 1939 into a working class background (Ted) Edward John May attended State Schools before commencing National Service training and enrolling as a part-time evening student at East Sydney Technical College. While attending evening classes, conducted by Wallace Thornton, John Passmore and Godfrey Millar, he held numerous work positions until graduating with a Diploma of Fine Art in 1963.

After graduating he taught art at High Schools and went on to part time lecturing at ESTC and Newcastle Art School. Travelled extensively throughout Europe, South America, Central and Northern America, working 6 months in Mexico and a further 18 months in the USA.

In 1974 he returned to Melbourne and resumed lecturing at RMIT, VCA, and Monash Caulfield Art School Campus. He became a Partner in a Real Estate Company, and later Instigated and Directed the Melbourne Arts Club Inc. He retired from lecturing in 1991 to paint full time.

Cubism, Picasso, Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art influenced his early work

Best known amongst his peers for his nude figure drawings and his knowledge, obtained from Passmore and Millar, of the human figure’s mechanisms, he has continuously kept up the practise of drawing the figure, while conducting life drawing classes at his studio.

In developing his individual style of painting the landscape, he portrayed not the usual characteristics that convey the Australian Landscape, but rather branches, twigs, falling bark, tree trunks, saplings and the scattered undergrowth, along with swamps, marshes, burnt out forests and its devastation. These expressionistic, robustly painted, colourful works, were executed primarily with the pallet knife on a large format.

Interest in the human figure changed his direction from landscape painting to human figurative elements, which now dominate his current works. Using both male and female images but primarily the later, the nude is usually positioned upon a stool, chair or similar vehicle. These compositional, structured paintings are made up of body parts, poised in awkward positions, sometimes upside down, sometimes distorted and fragmented.

Painted with a full and sometimes dry brush on his familiarly large format, these somewhat oversized figurative images, depicted as if posing for the artist, become a recurring theme. Executed with a limited palette these singular imaged works become a stark contrast to the earlier landscapes, where the depiction of vegetation filled the canvas. These recent works are landscapes held within the confines of the human form. Rapidly painted, the composition is continually transformed as the ideas crystallise, eventually ending with an image that is challenging to the viewer.

However there is a lighter side to Ted May for when he turns his attention to Portraits he executes them without the subject sitting. This allows him to instinctively follow his inner feelings and knowledge he has of the subject. This led to a further series of tongue in cheek portraits of William Shakespeare in which humour plays an important role in the execution of the works.

While early works and some landscapes have been signed either Edward May, or back to front, as Yambet or Yamdet, his current figurative paintings are signed 'Ted May'

The National Gallery of Victoria, Australian Embassy of Saudi Arabia, Conrad Jupiter Casino, Chartwell Collection Hamilton New Zealand, University of Melbourne, Peter MacCallum Institute, La Trobe University, Paul Dainty Corporation, and Western Australia Institute of Technology, has acquired his paintings.

Ted has held 28 one-person exhibitions and of these the major shows were held at the Institute of Modern Art Brisbane, Kim Bonython Gallery' Sydney, Solander Gallery Canberra, Robin Gibson Gallery Sydney, Niagara Gallery Melbourne, Rudy Koman Gallery Sydney, BMG 2nd Contemporary Art Fair 1990 and Barberino val D’Elsa Florence Italy.

In addition he has participated in 46 group exhibitions that include 2002 Dobell Art Prize, 1997 Sulman Art Prize, 1996 Wynne Art Prize, Inter Art Gallery Reich in Cologne, Heide Museum of Modern Art, Helena Rubenstein Prize 1969 and Bradford Cotton Mills Prize 1966/7.

[Supplied by the artist] Edit or add to this biography

Market Information

Shaded Driveway 1988
Highest Price:
Shaded Driveway 1988
Oil on canvas, 26.5 x 33.5 cm
The Estate of Joy Warren OAM , Mossgreen Auctions, Canberra.
Hammer price, estimate, sale date and lot number will be visible when you subscribe.

Other works sold by this artist

Oil on canvas, 60 x 90 cm
Winter Two Day Special Sale, E. J. Ainger Pty.Ltd., Melbourne.
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