JULIE BISHOP: Tonight we celebrate the prodigious talent of one of our very own, Leon Pericles. Such is the talent of this man that 50 years after his first exhibition, his distinctive style is still very much in demand across Australia and around the world.

As this exhibition is so aptly named, we’re ‘Just Scratching the Surface’. Leon’s paintings and prints, etchings and collagraphs and sculptures are bright and busy and endlessly detailed, witty and charming and satirical. They are a joy to behold. I think that his work and this exhibition enables us to see life through his eyes and, in a retrospective of this size, shows the influences: growing up in Western Australia, in Meekatharra, his life with Moira, working overseas, working as a teacher.

It reflects his heritage, his hobbies, his interests. And as you look at the works you can imagine the important events in his life that are paralleled in his creations. I recall first coming across Leon’s work when I came to Western Australia in the early 1980s and I was struck by the absolute creativity and energy in his work. It was shortly thereafter that I learned of this mythical town, Widjimorphup, that soon became known as Down Town Widji, and then, in a delicious parody, his Royal Lake Widji Yacht Club challenged for the America’s Cup with its own yacht, its own committee, and it really did take the mickey out of what was happening in Western Australia at that time, as exciting as it was. One of his classics, ‘A Storm in a Teacup’, with the Lipton’s teabag hanging out of the cup in which yachts were madly sailing around is one that I will never, ever forget.

Is it life imitates art, or art imitates life? Whether we take the Aristotle or the Oscar Wilde view of life, it doesn’t matter with Leon, because his works speak to us about our experiences, about our lives, about our perspectives and our emotions. His creations can make you laugh, they can make you cry. This quite remarkable exhibition, a retrospective like no other, over 500 works, is a great credit to Leon.
Now we have a book and a documentary focusing on Leon and Moira’s life and the family. And I’m absolutely privileged to have this opportunity to say how proud we all are in Western Australia of your creativity, your artistry and your inexhaustible supplies of energy. Ladies and gentlemen, I’m delighted to officially open Leon Pericles’ Retrospective 1968-2018: Just Scratching the Surface.

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