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  • Writer's pictureJillAnsell

Archibald Finalist 2024 - Pericles: Just scratching the surface

Updated: 4 days ago

portrait of a master printmaker
Pericles: Just scratching the surface

Pericles: Just scratching the Surface*


I am thrilled that this portrait of Leon Pericles has been selected for the 2024 Archibald Prize.


Leon Pericles A.M (Australian Marvel) is a master printmaker, painter, sculptor and philanthropist. A prolific artist (161 solos!) his work has won national and international acclaim. Leon is much loved in W.A for depicting Western Australia in all its beauty and delightful eccentricity. 


The first artwork that my husband and I purchased many years ago was one of Leon’s etchings.  Years later I saw Leon through the crowds in his studio during Margaret River Open Studios. He was surrounded by his fabulous art, delighted visitors and a collection of paraphernalia that any museum would envy. I definitely wanted to paint his portrait and I coveted all his stuff.


I visited Leon to sketch and paint studies for the portrait in this lovely studio. He regaled me and Pete (world's best wingman) with great stories. An animated subject, there were lots of ideas on how to paint Leon, but in the end I chose to paint him at work creating.


The portrait shows Leon at his desk – headlamp on, etching away in the studio, surrounded by curiosities. His work often includes assemblage, so I raided my collections to find tiny objects to include. Having chosen an old tin to create the portrait in, the work was divided into two panels with Leon leaning across his desk.  Wanting the painting to bridge across both panels,  I moved his hand across to the left-hand panel and created the light as both painting and object across the middle of the painting. Painting and object, real and imagined merge.

Moi, Leon‘s beloved wife and business manager for many years, is referenced through nautical flags (a Leon idea). The view out the window is a nod to Leon’s fictional town of Widjimorphup and to his birthplace of Meekatharra; the kite a salute to his international kite making prizes and I did manage to fit in a tiny dog of a similar shape to Leon’s dog. A needle becomes an etching tool in his hand and words are etched in reverse - Leon having spent a lifetime writing backwards.


I had so many possibilities to fit into the assemblage that I quite regretted choosing such a small tin for the portrait. Leon‘s imagination and output know  no bounds. – and I was trying to capture it in a small space when I had enough stuff to fill a suitcase.


Ultimately I was pleased with the feeling created of being in an intense creative space with boundless space outside the window. This is very Pericles.


If you haven’t had the joy of looking at Leon Pericles work, here is the link (make yourself a cup of tea first and allow some time...)




Thanks to Leon Pericles for agreeing to sit still and not talk, to Yoda for remarkable patience

and to my master problem solver and solderer, Pete.

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