Reviews/Visual Art

Pericles delights with wit and wonder

31 May 2022

Filled with colour and humour, the latest exhibition from beloved West Australian artist Leon Pericles is not to be missed, reports Belinda Hermawan.

‘Taming a Tumultuous Palette’, Leon Pericles ·
Linton & Kay Galleries Subiaco ·

Renowned for his signature wit and engaging imagery, West Australian artist Leon Pericles is set to delight audiences with his latest exhibition, “Taming a Tumultuous Palette” at Linton & Kay Galleries Subiaco. In his colourful painted, etched and mixed-media works, Pericles highlights the strange and wonderful features of our natural environment, along with the man-made structures that make these landscapes distinctly Australian.

Pericles’s underwater seascapes embody what he describes as an attempt to “invent something that is equal to the bizarre creatures that already exist”. In the painting Competition with God, he employs an electric combination of acrylic blues, greens and yellows to build a vivid seabed of unusually shaped plant life and eye-catching tropical fish.

Leon Pericles' 'Competition with God' is a depiction of an underwater scene painted in vivid blues, greens and yellows. The effect is like a quilt or collage.
A visually arresting tapestry: Leon Pericles, ‘Competition with God’, 2022, acrylic on canvas

Warm tones are added to the acrylic palette in Juvenile Sweetlips Encounters a Nudibrach (pictured top), resulting in a rainbow-infused, kaleidoscopic image, in which molluscs play the starring role. Pericles’s ability to create depth and complexity through layering and playing with shape gives his paintings a quilt-like quality, as if he has stitched together individual panels to form a visually arresting tapestry.

The same effect plays in the rich, autumnal toned For a Moment, a painting of farmland that stands in contrast to the marine-themed pieces. Whether it’s the corrugated iron of the farmstead or the crops in the fields, Pericles pays careful attention to every stroke and contrast of warm hues. One can’t help but be drawn closer when standing in front of his works, not wanting to miss any of the detail.

Reading the fine print has never been so enjoyable: Leon Pericles, ‘I Was In The Pub When I Heard the Crash’, 2021, acrylic on canvas

Pericles’s sense of humour can often be found in the details. Every fictitious title in the bookcase in One Bee Amongst the Bs – another standout painting – will elicit a smile if not a laugh.

Those who closely inspect The Spirit Within – a replica of the original painting and mixed-media work installed in the lobby of the Parmelia Hilton in the Perth CBD – will also be rewarded. There was a palpable sense of joy in the gallery as patrons scoured this historic map of Western Australia, not only for recognisable landmarks but also for the tongue-in-cheek jokes on every signpost at the roadhouse and farmgate. As in I Was in the Pub When I Heard the Crash, reading the fine print has never been so enjoyable.

Viewing Pericles’s work is immersive. He invites us to think outside the confines of our own experience whilst also encouraging us to appreciate the everyday. His inclusion of objects in his mixed-media works – for example, the sticks in Opus 1 – Fence Series, and the blocks and beads in North to the Station Shed – evokes a sense of play and construction. It’s not hard to imagine how growing up in the small country town of Meekatharra, where his parents were publicans, would’ve fostered an early yearning to explore.

With the last two years largely marked by despair and restriction, this exhibition is timely reminder that the world can come alive through wonder and wit. This is a must-see exhibition of 2022 – I urge you to find out firsthand why Pericles is a fan favourite.

“Taming a Tumultuous Palette” is exhibiting at Linton and Kay Galleries Subiaco until Sunday 19 June.

Pictured top: Detail from Leon Pericles., ‘Juvenile Sweetlips Encounters a Nudibranch’, 2022, acrylic on canvas

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Author —
Belinda Hermawan

Belinda Hermawan is a graduate of UWA Law School (2009) and a fiction writer whose short fiction has been published in Australia and the United States. She is a summer school alum of Parsons, The New School of Design in New York. Favourite piece of playground equipment: playground car on springs!

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