Colour was the “keynote and glory” of Michael Peckham’s first solo exhibition at the Bear Lane Gallery in Oxford in 1964. The two themes in the show were the river at Hammersmith and the hill country in the Var which he had first seen in 1960. His work had previously been exhibited at University College North Wales in Bangor in 1962 and at Somerville College Oxford in 1963.
In 1970 he had his first solo exhibition in London at the Woodstock Gallery opened a decade earlier by Lyall Watson a member of the ICA free painters’ group. The work showed a shift away from landscape with an emphasis on a circle motif and collages that were built out as three-- dimensional constructions. His exhibition in 1976 at the Upper Street Gallery in Islington centred on the built-out collages he had started to make in the early1970’s.
From the early 1980’s until the late 1990’s his agent was Christopher Hull who exhibited his work in his gallery in Fulham and later in Motcomb Street, Belgravia. In 1983 he exhibited thirty-six watercolours at the Fulham gallery and in 1989 he exhibited sixty works that ranged from large oil paintings to small studies in gouache, crayon and ink and oil pastel. Two further solo exhibitions with Christopher Hull followed in 1992 and 1997.
In his exhibition in 1989 at the Richard Demarco Gallery in Edinburgh he gave a talk on ‘salvagism’ based on his own experience of retrieving fragments of time. In the same year he developed an art event with Demarco at the centre of a cancer congess at the South Bank in London in 1989 that included work by Helen Chadwick, Joseph Beuys and Paul Neagu.
In the late 1990’s he embarked on paintings that drew more explicitly on imagery derived from his cancer work. Fifty paintings and collages shown under the title ‘bodyworks’ at the Millinery Works Gallery in London in 2001, explored changing perceptions of the body brought about by fresh insights into living structure and function. A selection of figure paintings using scrim and hessian were exhibited in London in 2004 and in the same year thirty-five small drawings made in the clinical notes of his patients were shown in the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition under the title “Treatments”.
In an exhibition in Tryon Street in 2013 he extended his exploration of the human condition drawing on a mythic tale of human metamorphosis. In 2017 thirty-six paintings, constructions and collages exploring the tension between the visible surface and concealed depth in relation to the human body were shown at The Millinery Works Gallery under the title ‘Balance of the Interior’.
His work has also been shown in mixed exhibitions in Wales (1962), Oxford (1963), London (1984,1988, 1990, 1991, 2002) and Eton Fine Art (1992). In 2001 his work was shown in a traveling exhibition in London, Oxford and City Art Gallery Edinburgh.
Images of his paintings have appeared on books, journals and posters, and strikingly, on the products of Peckham’s prize-winning New Zealand cider.
All images © Michael Peckham 2016
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