Michael Peck’s large oil paintings feel both comfortable and unsettling. ‘Really good artworks allow us to engage with our anxieties,’ he says. Dreamlike landscapes show children using objects associated with war and conflict – guns, soldiers helmets and aviators’ hats – as toys and dressing up clothes, or dressed as badge-adorned scouts poised uncertainly on an invisible threshold to adulthood. Their expressions are inscrutable; innocent yet hinting at the realisations that adult experience will bring – a tension made explicit in Peck’s Self-portrait in the image of my son which shows the artist reflected in the mirror lenses of his young son’s aviator glasses.

Peck makes several preparatory pen and ink drawings before starting his canvases, beginning with the background and darkest layers then adding paler highlights in opaque shades and layers of glaze to create luminosity. His limited palette – black and white, sepia or shades of red and orange – makes his work feel timeless.

In 2012 Peck was a finalist in both the Archibald and Doug Moran National Portrait Prizes. He has twice been a Sulman Prize finalist and has undertaken private commissions in London, New York, Melbourne and Sydney.

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