I have an indelible picture in my mind of Leon Pericles. He sits at his easel in the public foyer of the then Treetops Port Douglas Resort, where he is the artist-in-residence for our gallery, Port Douglas Gallery of Fine Art.
Two young children watch him, absorbed, as he applies paint to his canvas. One drapes an arm affectionately around his shoulders, the three of them absorbed and intent on the creative process that is taking place.
But it is not only children who appreciate Leon’s work and his thoughtful companionship.
Leon is a keen observer of people and situations, in which he
sometimes sees the ridiculous. One could think of him as a social
commentator, but also as a lover of nature, in tune with the
spirituality of our vast land.
Frequently in his work, Leon references Australia’s aboriginal inhabitants and pays homage to them through marks, signs and symbols.
Perhaps it was his early childhood, spent in a small outback town in Western Australia, where Leon often spent time alone, that led him to explore his imagination and develop stories of the bush.
These stories, told with a gently satirical twist, reveal truth in a delightful and engaging way; we smile (or laugh uproariously!) as we recognise ourselves and our foibles in his telling observations.
'Family Airloom', collograph
'Three Strange Birds From the Bush', collograph
Leon Pericles (his father was of Greek origin) has built an amazing reputation and following in Australia. As a vehicle for his comments his skill in printmaking is unsurpassed.
Hand made etchings, collagraphs, screenprints and paintings explore his
imaginary town of Widgimorphup, where just about everything typical of
an outback Australian town happens.
Sometimes the reality (or is it unreality?) spills over into performances where Leon, the quiet puppeteer, manipulates his audience to become willing participants in the entertainment (eg “Tiggi Puggenheim”, which toured nationwide to twenty galleries and venues, including Port Douglas. Who could forget the inimitable Diane Cilento in her red wig, addressing the crowd that night at the Sheraton Mirage Hotel as we all slipped into our assigned Widgi characters?).
Not only a printmaker, Leon paints intriguing pictures – or adds collages to his prints – as well as sculpture when the mood takes him. His skill in all of these areas is remarkable, matched by his lively curiosity, research skills and unique viewpoint.
To have a retrospective exhibition at the Western Australian State Art Gallery at the young age of forty, as he did in 1989, is no mean feat, but then there is nothing mediocre about Leon Pericles.
His wife and business partner, Moira, has helped to organise many exhibitions, some of which toured nationally.
For Moira, life with Leon must be an exciting adventure of exploration …even without leaving home!