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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

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John Perceval

In their own words

Recorded 1961

John Perceval
Audio: 2 minutes

I’m still interested in what one would describe possibly as the virtues, that is, I like the idea of goodness as against evil, beauty as against ugliness, kindness as against cruelty. I’m interested in humanity, I’m interested in the idea of a oneness in the world of races. And these are the kind of things that move me to do the sort of work that I do. Sounds rather large but in actually fact it’s not.

Now to deal with one aspect of my work, say, we’ll take my landscape paintings, in which I deal directly with nature, nature again being one of my loves, that is, the visual world of nature, the growing world of trees and, of course, ultimately of people moving on the surface of the earth.

I do all my paintings actually on location. If I’m painting a landscape of, say, let me see – a mass of trees with light scintillating through it towards me, I start work about two hours before sunset and I prepare myself for work with a vast amount of paint, and paint very rapidly towards the changing mood of the day, towards sunset. Generally I like to work with a friend, we don’t take it tremendously seriously, and we often consume quite a quantity of the good beverage, enjoy ourselves no end – something like a fishing trip. And we link ourselves closely with the changing mood of the landscape. It’s the last half hour that generally brings the thing to some conclusion, when the sun is just low in the sky and the shadows make a scintillating broken light. I might say that perhaps I am very much concerned with the idea of broken and suspended light, and the abstract qualities of the bush itself.

Acknowledgements

This oral history of John Perceval is from the De Berg Collection in the National Library of Australia. For more information, or to hear full versions of the recordings, visit the National Library of Australia website.

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

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