Michael Peck Self-portrait in the image of my son, 2012 oil on linen 206 x 237.5cm ©Michael Peck Archibald Finalist 2012
Did I use the word incomparable to describe the artist Michael Peck earlier this week?
I’ve sat in front of my computer for too long, gazing at his self portrait, wondering how to best share my experience of meeting him a couple of weeks ago. I’m a bit awestruck frankly. His paintings are as rich and multilayered as the conversation we had. So where to start?
While Michael Peck lives nearby in Eltham, his studio is in Richmond in the same building as a printing workshop. Once in the studio we quickly settled into a chat about Michael’s passion for painting. A true artist, he’s driven to paint every day, and when he’s not painting he’s thinking about the next painting or sketching ideas that just bubble up in a seemingly inexhaustible supply. His work bench is stacked with small ink drawings and watercolours, all explorations of a variety of themes. Against one wall was another painting from the series of work that resulted in his Archibald shortlisting. It was a jawdropping experience to see it.
The theme of war is front and centre in this body of work. Michael keenly remembers dressing up in soldier’s gear as a young boy. He observes his own sons doing the same. He’s interested in the naivety at the centre of that. He freely admits “I’m naive about war.” The beautiful face of the boy (his son), rendered with such care and perhaps reverence, could be seen as the act of a loving father. He talks so affectionately of his children. He also remembers that his grandfathers didn’t talk about their experiences in the second world war. He wonders why that was and what they might have revealed if they had. He wanted me to know that the paintings are not about young boys being enlisted into armies across the world, though I suspect others may have read that into them. He’s wanting to capture that fascination so many young boys have for war and the trappings of war, without understanding the gut wrenching brutality of it…which undoubtedly his grandparents knew all too well. This is a very personal body of work.
When you go out to TWMA to view the Archibald and walk into the main gallery, direct your eyes right and you will see his enormous canvas positively glowing off the wall. The beauty of it is that he doesn’t paint simply to have that wow factor effect. There’s no conscious trickery in his work. The power of it results from an artist prepared to dig deeply into his own soul, listen carefully to what it tells him and bravely offer it up to the world in paint on canvas. His Self portrait in the image of my son therefore works on so many levels.
In the end, in the same way that you have to be directly in front of his self portrait to feel the full knockout force of it, you probably had to be there with me, chatting about life and art with Michael Peck, to appreciate his indescribable talent and his all consuming passion for his arts practice. In researching this piece, I found an interview conducted by Richard Morecroft, with Michael and another 2012 Archibald finalist Jodi Daley. Check it out via this link. You’ll get the flavour of what I’m talking about.
I’m going to go out on a limb here. If Michael Peck keeps painting like this, he’s a shoo-in to take out the Archibald Prize in the not too distant future!
Yep… I think the word incomparable works perfectly to describe the 2012 Archibald finalist Michael Peck.
Michael is represented by Metro Gallery.
You can see this and the other 2012 Archibald finalist works at TarraWarra Museum of Art until the 8th July.