As much as we might feel that the landscapes and water ways of Australia’s coastal regions are familiar to us, and hold little potential for surprise, Celia Perceval’s paintings prove that they remain places full of mystery and wonder.
Perceval is a dedicated explorer of wild and hidden places, tramping across the wilds with her equipment, searching out sites where land meets the sea, where rivers meet the ocean, looking for vistas that capture her imagination.
While Perceval describes her response to her subjects as one that’s both personal and intensely emotional, her canvases are produced with consummate and careful skill, many executed en plein air, as she transcribes to canvas her encounters with the bush, and the animals and birds that live there. It’s a direct kind of practice that values the artist’s senses, the en plein air works usually left as they were completed in the field, a second strand of work being based on studies completed on location, and then developed into finished pictures back at her home studio.
The body work for this exhibition includes canvases produced following Perceval’s travels in Queensland and Victoria, but primarily these are landscapes found in New South Wales. Working with oil on canvas – which the artist describes as malleable and sensual in a way that suits her responses - her style is gestural, but contained by a precise sense of composition, favouring strong lines and deep colour, with glimpses of the sky, sea or mountains beyond the vegetation of the middle ground.
Influenced in part by her parents, the artists John Perceval and Mary Boyd, Perceval’s own work is a testament to the beauty of the places that our cities, suburbs and towns are slowly encroaching upon, pushing out that special sense of place that one can only experience in the bush. For Perceval, the work is about giving the viewer a sense of her own experience, one that we can commune with, and for us, to recognise the beauty of the world.
Dr. Andrew Frost, October, 2019