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Labyrinth is the best word to describe Malcolm Peel’s studio. ‘Invitations’ to walk up and down the corridors and explore the recesses are everywhere. You never know where you’ll end up or what you might encounter on the way. Maybe I was channeling Harry Potter on his first visit to Gringotts Bank… now there’s a labyrinth. Harry Potter or not, the level of anticipation and intrigue during my recent visit to this Yarra Valley Open Studio artist, was off the scale.

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Malcolm’s paintings and sculptures undoubtedly add to the sense of drama.  Paintings are stacked, hung and leant up against walls, while larger works are suspended on chains due to the sheer weight of them.

His paintings and sculptures take you into his subconscious. He allows a kind of meditative process to determine the direction of a work, sitting in front of it, until the next step becomes clear. He doesn’t edit it or muck around with it too much, he just allows his wonderful creative mind to have free reign. So that the works become an intimate, labyrinthine journey around his subconscious.

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The results are rivetting.  I pretty quickly registered my own feeling of disquiet. A painter who can evoke such a response deserves all of my attention. A tension was in plain view. The tension between allowing creativity to flourish (feeding it with activity and following ‘big ideas’ to a resolution) while at the same time, satisfying the more mundane necessities of life, like paying the gas bill and eating more than one lettuce leaf daily. Now in the autumn of his years, he is in a position to devote all of his days to painting but those earlier years of needing to work at other things are etched on his psyche and still play out on the surface of his canvasses. As you might expect of a labyrinth, there are many more ‘diversions’ and ‘places’ to explore in the images he creates. Way too many to be described here. In fact there’s quite likely a PhD in the exploration of Malcolm’s work…  mmm there’s food for thought.

Like a great film that replays in my head for days, Malcolm’s paintings and sculptures have occupied a lot of my head space since visiting his studio last week. 

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Cockatoos often feature in his work. A bold, squawking, unapologetic presence.

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I had to kid Malcolm into wearing that hat.  He proudly told me that his son makes them.  All four of Malcolms offspring make a living from their art.  Another Open Studio’s artist, Tim Peel, is one of them.

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I forgot to mention the setting for Malcolm’s house and studio at Yarra Junction. He’s lived there for forty years and I totally understand why. I’m trying to picture his stunning view on a sun drenched spring day in September, to imagine what beauty will present itself to you on a visit during the Open Studios Program. I was there on a very cold foggy morning in winter, you could just make out Mount Donna Buang in the distance,  but the rosellas and cockatoos had taken up residence on the railing of his deck providing their own little bit of sunshine.

I’m whole heartedly recommending a visit to Malcolm during the Open Studio’s Program. Like Gringotts Bank, there are riches aplenty at every turn and dare I say, just a little bit of magic.  Don’t miss it!

Due to popular demand, The Yarra Valley Open Studio Program is running over two weekends this year. September 10th,11th and 17th,18th.

All artwork in this post is Malcolm Peel ©.