Leon Pericles has been honoured with the appointment as a Member (AM) of the Order of Australia as part of The King’s Birthday Honours 2023. The award is for his significant service to the visual arts, particularly to printmaking. Leon’s career has spanned more than 55 years and is filled with a long list of ways in which he has contributed to the advancement of the visual arts in Australia.
Leon and his family have been wonderful supporters of the Australian Alzheimer’s Research Foundation. In 2018, Leon completed a beautiful piece for his wife Moira – ‘Etching for Moi’. Leon and Moira are donating all profits of the sale of this work to AARF, to help the foundation provide funding and facilities for research into ways to prevent or delay the onset of the disease and slow its progression.
Leon is internationally acclaimed and has held many solo exhibitions throughout Australia and overseas since 1969. His work is held in numerous major public and private collections. His witty and unique views of Australia, combined with his outstanding talent have earned him the reputation of being one of Australia’s most prominent artists.
‘Etching for Moi’ tells a story of Leon’s love. The lighthouse represents Moi as a strong figure who has withstood a lifetime of storms and anything nature has flung against her, but whose light shines regardless. The note filled clouds speak to Moi’s passion for classical music and the lighthouse is surrounded by a sea of floating flowers reflecting her capacity to remain buoyant, happy and positive. Moira’s name is spelled out in nautical flags. The clothesline is symbolic of the traditional workload that has historically been the burden of wives and mothers.
The work was completed in 2018, when Leon held a 50-year retrospective show in Perth. It was a major exhibition and he had to work frantically to assemble work and create new pieces for the exhibition. However, instead of focussing solely on his art as he would have done in the past, Leon found himself juggling roles as an artist, husband and carer for his wife Moi, who has Alzheimer’s.
For most of his career, Moira had handled the business side of his art practice, distributing his artwork to galleries, managing staff, and taking a curatorial role. About 10 years earlier, she had first begun to experience symptoms of dementia. In 2018, her cognitive abilities were experiencing rapid decline, and Leon and his family had to balance Moira’s care with the heavy demands of the exhibition.
The story was captured in a beautiful documentary ‘Storm in a Teacup’ by the ABC & Artemis Media. Told through the eyes of their daughter Nia, the film explores the role reversal of Leon and his wife Moira, who has always been his rock but now has Alzheimer’s.
At its heart, this is a story of a great love, a partnership in business and life that has stood the test of time and now faces one big challenge. It was in the edit, looking back at archive of my folks when they were young that made me the most emotional. It made me realise how tight their bond was to start and how decades later their love is stronger than ever.Nia Pericles
The documentary was a Finalist in the Walkley Documentary Award 2020 – Nia Pericles and Celia Tait, and a Finalist in the Australian Screen Editors Awards 2020 – Nick Dunlop.
Liza Dunne, CEO of AARF, said the documentary helped to shed light on the extreme challenges faced by family and carers of someone with Alzheimer’s.
“Watching someone you love decline into dementia is a very personal experience, and Leon shared it with us, to bring a better understanding of this condition and its impact.” – Liza Dunne, CEO
AARF is extremely grateful to Leon that in a time of significant sadness and stress, he thought about how he could contribute to make people more aware of the impact of Alzheimer’s, and to make a generous financial contribution so we can move closer to a future without this disease.
Photos by Lauren Trickett @laurentrickettphoto and David Dare Parker