Home » Michael Peck and his children of war

Michael Peck and his children of war

Just as I declared I would seek out portraits of mothers with their painted children, I came across a father and his painted children.

Peck, M. Fighter pilot #5. 2011

Peck, M. Fighter pilot #5. 2011

And I found my own opinions well challenged.

Everybody knows men don’t paint portraits of their kids – they paint the big names, the politicians, the sports stars, kings and queens – and they leave the domestic to the women … So what did Michael Peck think he was doing painting children in this sensitive and almost wistful way? Using his own children as models.

Now to be truthful, I had seen Peck’s Self-portrait in the image of my son in this year’s Archibald where it featured as finalist. It is from his Vemillion series and for some reason I didn’t look long.

From the outside the piece doesn’t appear much like a self-portrait. Even in the accompanying artist statement Peck omits any real disclosure of self, preferring to reflect on childhood and a fascination with neighbourhood games. But unpick his style and themes a little and there is much more.

The setting for many of Peck’s intense but very still portraits, is war. On one level it’s very much ‘boys own’ territory kind of stuff, painted post-apocalypse; all silvery light and twinkling in definition they create a kind of mirage-in-the-mind sensation. In this silent world Peck stands his children like sentries between perfection and innocence and the despicable and voilent. Quite powerful in the way it makes you wonder about children, who play so seriously, wanting so much to inhabit our flawed and failed adult world.

All his works show intense tenderness for his children – you see it in the way he renders their faces; the tipping lip contours, their puffed cheeks and soft, still mobile noses and folds of skin. Looking at his painted children you see his love for them.

Which isn’t that different to the way many women have painted theirs. It would be a compliment to call him a modern day Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun.

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