Marilyn Peck

Retrospective 1980 to 2005

February 21 - March 21 2015

A celebration of the ‘dance of life', Marilyn Peck's retrospective exhibition chronicles an evolving aesthetic through the mediums of painting, storytelling and poetry.

Resident in the Gold Coast hinterland since 1986, the still spritely and effervescent 82 year-old artist was born in Melbourne and studied commercial art at Caulfield Technical College. In the mid 1950's, she worked as a graphic artist and fabric designer before seeking to broaden her creativity beyond the strictures of the lithographic process. In the works of the English romantic landscape painter, Joseph William Turner, she found a particular resonance. Here was a poetic approach that emphasised luminosity and atmosphere. Marilyn understood that Turner was striving to express a sense of spirituality; a passing moment in the natural world captured in the play of light on water and the radiance of expansive skies.

Relocating to Sydney's Northern Beaches in the 1960's, Marilyn began portraying the ambience of the Hawkesbury River locale in both watercolour and acrylic. To prevent a tendency towards detailed realism, Marilyn variously employed the brush, palette knife and even her hands. The following decade has been termed The Fantasy Period and was characterised by experiments in mixed media that included enamel spay and acrylic marbling. Her paintings depicted the mythological landscapes that inhabited both what she was reading and her own prose and poetry.

The 1980's are described as The Found Period where imagery was ‘discovered' in the outcome of dropping objects into wet watercolour paint. The technique was a means of activating the imagination and accessing subconscious realms. Tissue paper and gauze collage were also introduced into her painting to give textural nuances and shifting focal points. It was around this time Marilyn began working in miniature.

The miniature genre gave pictorial voice to Marilyn's abiding interest in history, literature and mythology. The 1990's were her Myth Period. Throughout these years she painted for the most part in series or suites portraying fairy tales, nursery rhymes, poems and ancient myths. The minuscule scale of the works encourages a close engagement with the subjects depicted amidst jewel-like drifts of watercolour. Emulating the traditions of mediaeval illuminated manuscripts, areas of gold and palladium leaf accent the enchanting stories and venerable parables contained within. The precious leaf is often inscribed with subtle patterns that add linear intricacies.

During the new millennium, Marilyn's fascination with archetypal symbolism culminated in two remarkable bodies of work: The Wasteland Suite and the Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Suite. The Wasteland Suite is the artist's response to T. S. Elliot's 1922 poem decrying the rampant materialism of his day and the consequential decline of spiritual awareness. Multi-layered in process and meaning, the paintings do not simply illustrate certain passages from the poem but rather interpret its ethos in relation to her own personal experiences. As the late Gordon Foulds wrote in his introduction to the 2004, exquisitely produced book of these paintings; "The works have the dreamlike quality of a separate reality - of an unexplored reality within a known reality."

In 2014 Marilyn published another art book, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. She had begun translating the chivalric romance from Middle English in 2002 and subsequently illustrated her interpretation of its themes of temptation and moral testing. The forty-six sumptuous illustrations are an attempt to manifest an esoteric dimension. A selection of original artworks from both books is included in the exhibition.

In recent years Marilyn has become increasingly immersed in the written word. Her poetry and a thriller novel, The Dragon Bone Consortium, have recently been published. But to this day Marilyn continues to paint. "I am still finding things and flinging paint about on the end of brushes", muses Marilyn. "I have two large watercolours going at the moment. I am painting darker and darker glazes round and round things, upside down where two stories are being told in the negative and positive spaces. I try only to be influenced by beauty. I love accidental happenings in the picture plane. These are gifts from God."

Marilyn Peck's creative output has been prodigious. She has been an exhibiting artist since 1970 and has developed an international reputation as a significant miniaturist painter, winning awards both overseas and in Australia. Her work has been collected by the Gold Coast City Gallery and Tasmania's Burnie Regional Art Gallery. Marilyn's contribution in fostering inspiration and creativity in others is equally impressive. During the 1970's she organised Adventurous Painting workshops along the length of the eastern seaboard - from "Cooktown to Hobart". Marilyn was a founding member of the Australian Society of Miniature Art in NSW, 1986 and Foundation President of that body in Queensland, 1988.


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