Three Very Special Works Help Celebrate the Gallery’s 70th Anniversary

Three special artworks were unveiled at a gala dinner on Friday 25 August, in honour of the Shepparton Art Gallery’s 70th anniversary.

Chairman of the Sidney Myer Fund Carrillo Gantner AO presented two gifts to the gallery collection from the Sidney Myer Fund in honour of the anniversary.

A Tiwi ceramic by Cyril James Kerinauia and Mark Virgil Puatjimi, called Purrukurparli (2002), is an earthenware piece, made as part of a workshop done at the National Gallery of Victoria when the Yikwani exhibition toured there in 2002.

The second work by Judith Pungarta Inkamala, called Rock Pidgeon (2002), is a hand built terracotta ceramic with under glaze. 

Also unveiled on the night by Sir Andrew Fairley was a very special acquisition purchased in honour of the gallery’s anniversary with funds from the Fairley Foundation, Margaret Lawrence Bequest, Lauraine Diggins Fine Art and the Friends of the Shepparton Art Gallery Society Inc.  

Angel with Arms Upraised, 1961  
earthenware and glaze
54.5 x 32 cm  
Bought from Perceval Family mid 1960s
Mr and Mrs Mark Strizic 1997
private collection, Melbourne
Joseph Brown Winter Exhibition 1977
19th and 20th Century Australian Painting Sculpture
and Decorative Arts Lauraine Diggins 1996

The gallery’s ceramic collection is rated as one of the best in Australia, alongside the Powerhouse Museum and the National Gallery of Victoria. There are over 4,500 ceramic works in the collection with about 20 per cent on display at any one time. The collection includes work by the first convict potters through to individual studio potters and commercial potteries.

Included in this collection is the famous “Delinquent Angel” by John Perceval, purchased by the gallery in 1976. This work was made in 1961 and was shown in London in 1962. 

“It is not too much of an exaggeration to claim these cute little figures represent the beginning of modern ceramics and as such have a place of the first importance in any ceramics collection,” said former Gallery Director Peter Timms at the time.

Now considered to be an icon of the collection (and in fact the gallery’s logo is based on the angel figure), when purchased in 1976 then Cr John Terrill commented that he thought $2,700 was too much for “a bit of stuff”.
There are very few public institutions in Australia that can claim to have two of these iconic angels in their collection. Perceval produced two distinct groups of angels: the earliest works from 1957 to 1959 were developed on the potter’s wheel and the later group, from 1961 to 1962, were more vigorously sculpted using a variety of techniques. To have two examples of this turning point in Australian ceramics now housed permanently in Shepparton is a tremendous achievement and a very fitting work to celebrate the 70th anniversary.

Perceval biography

Perceval was born in 1923 in Bruce Rock, WA and received no formal art training. As a boy he contracted poliomyelitis which left him permanently lame. His work attracted attention in the early CAS exhibitions in which his precocious talents were boldly expressed in surrealistic paintings, some reproduced in Angry Penguins. During the 1940s he joined the Boyd family at Murrumbeena when he married Mary Boyd and assisted in rehabilitating the family pottery and, having temporarily abandoned painting, returned to the exhibition scene in August 1954 with some Breughel inspired pictures and later in 1958, with a remarkable exhibition of ceramic angels at the MOMAD.

His spontaneous drawings of family life, his paintings of bush and coastal scenes, with ships and seagulls, or of figures partially lost in thick whirls of colourful paint, combined with his ceramic work, soon gained him a large following. In 1962 he visited London, and after three eventful years, he returned home as the first recipient of a Creative Arts Fellowship at the Australian National University, Canberra.

During the late 1960s his following increased with every new exhibition and prices of his work rose dramatically. By the middle 1970s, however, his family affairs had fallen into disarray and for a number of years he stopped painting. He married former student Anne Hall and started painting again in the mid to late 1970s and has continued to exhibit intermittently from that time. His work has been represented in a number of survey exhibitions during the 1980s, notably the Bicentennial exhibitions The Great Australian Art Exhibition and The Face of Australia. In 1992 a major retrospective of his work was curated by the NGV. Perceval died in 2000.

REF: Alan and Susan McCulloch, The Encyclopaedia of Australian Art, Allen and Unwin, 1994