Angels Coming to SAM

Shepparton Art Museum is delighted to present Delinquent Angel: John Perceval’s ceramic angels from 29 August to 24 November 2014.


This historically significant exhibition brings together approximately 40 of John Perceval’s ceramic angel sculptures for the first time since they were first exhibited in 1958 and 1959 at the Museum of Modern Art of Australia with texts by David Boyd and John Reed. Delinquent Angel: John Perceval’s ceramic angels is a landmark exhibition for SAM and highlight of the 2014 exhibition program. The exhibition draws three works from SAM’s nationally significant ceramics collection.

‘We’re so proud to be presenting this long-planned-for exhibition at SAM,’ curator Elise Routledge said. ‘John Perceval’s ceramic angels are one of the most significant bodies of work produced in the era of Australian modernism, comparable with Arthur Boyd’s ‘Love, Marriage and Death of a Half Caste’ (or ‘Brides’), or Sidney Nolan’s ‘Ned Kelly’ series. Aside from their art historical significance, they’re captivating works and we’re planning for the exhibition to honour their deviant and sophisticated spirit.’

John Perceval AO is one of Australia’s most celebrated and loved artists renowned for his radicalism, expressiveness and prolific output, along with his complex personal life. As a member of the Angry Penguins avante-garde movement that began in the 1940s, Perceval joined with other Australian art luminaries Arthur Boyd, Albert Tucker, Sidney Nolan, Danila Vassilieff and Joy Hester to rail against the insular conservatism of Australian society and push for new voices and modes of expression.

Perceval is largely known for his painting practice, however from 1957-1962, during what is considered to be one of his most creative  periods, Perceval produced a series of ceramic angel sculptures as a result of his involvement with Arthur Merric-Boyd’s pottery studio at Murumbeena. Perceval’s ceramic angels are often an over-looked aspect of his oeuvre despite their technical and conceptual sophistication, humour and beguiling charm. Perceval created more than 70 ceramic angels that range from self-portraits and tributes to friends and family, to figures that illustrate allegorical stories and comment on the threat of nuclear weaponry.

This historically significant exhibition brings together approximately 40 of John Perceval’s ceramic  angels from major public and private collections across Australia, including the Australian War Memorial, Canberra; National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne; Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne; Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane; and Shepparton Art Museum. The exhibition will explore the themes of the angels and examine their place within John Perceval’s artistic practice and world-at-large as a father, friend, and avante-garde member of society in conservative 1950s and ’60s Australia.

Delinquent Angel: John Perceval’s ceramic angels will be accompanied by a new essay on the angels by art historian and curatorial consultant on this exhibition, Damian Smith. The essay will be published on a blog, where images of the angels will be also reproduced alongside contextual information, interviews, guest blog entries and education resources.