Now that the 38 John Perceval ceramic angels are showing under their halos at the Shepparton Art Museum, an unusual thing has happened. A beautiful calm has spread across the two ground floor galleries. The effect of the angels is one of serenity and wisdom, as Perceval weaves his magic some 60 years after hand modelling each unique piece.
I had thought that the combined effect would be ferocious, frightening even. Instead tranquillity has settled over the exhibition befitting the naming of the works as Angels.
The official opening held on Saturday 30 August was a slow dawning. At first people did not know how to react – there was a mixture of recognition followed by bewilderment, then satisfaction, then a type of love.
The Angels are distinctive forms and very sophisticated artworks. The space between immediate identification and fuller engagement was aided by the superb installation, which establishes a new professional benchmark for Australian art galleries.
The exhibition has had an outstanding response in its first few days – though it is not for us at SAM to praise ourselves – with the quiet and deeply sincere appreciation of John Perceval’s daughter, Celia (pictured), blessing the project as worthy of her beloved and wonderful father.
It is without doubt a world-class exhibition and a great credit to the SAM team. The whole presentation is outstanding, from the display furniture and carefully positioned labels, through to the documentation which is impressive and accessible. Some plinths are placed at children’s height to ensure that the whole family can enjoy this exhibition. It is a must see event that people will talk about for years to come, and it is an important to show your support for SAM by seeing Delinquent Angel: John Perceval’s Ceramic Angels.
As SAM steps forward into a new era, this singular exhibition is proof that the idea of building a new stand-alone art museum is worthwhile.
The final salute goes to John Perceval himself. A sensitive man who left behind a fine body of artwork, he was great humanistic and caring soul, which shines through each sculpture on display.
Joe Pascoe, SAM Acting Senior Curator