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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

The Reorientalist, 2013 by Juan Ford
The Reorientalist, 2013 by Juan Ford

‘… any being that stands outside of nature and might be described as a human subject can be said to possess consciousness of self, the capacity for self-reflection in which the self observes: I am myself part of nature.’

- Theodor W. Adorno, Problems of moral philosophy, 2000

A coincidence of intense self-reflection and the motif of the play-weapon occurs in the work of Melbourne artists Juan Ford and Michael Peck. These works confront the complex interaction of the natural self. Michael Peck remembers his childhood and now observes his own children: ‘It is not my intention in these works to glorify war but to pose the question of why we are interested in it as children and raise those ideas of innocence and experience.’ Partly inspired by the makeshift guns created by a friend’s child, the figurative spectre of Ford’s intensely introspective and physical ‘challenge, negotiation or war’ to make the work stands against blue skies: ‘The body’s neural function, nervous system, everything about the physical effort, is transmuted in the medium so the soul of the thing and the thought are embodied.’ Both Peck’s and Ford’s introspection is outward-looking and contextualised by the mind’s comprehension of the relationship between the self and the world.

4 portraits

1Husk # 5, 2006 by Juan Ford. 2Recruit (Self Portrait in the image of my son), 2012 by Michael Peck. 3Recruit # 6, 2012 by Michael Peck.

Related information

Divide, 2011 by Sam Jinks
Divide, 2011 by Sam Jinks
Divide, 2011 by Sam Jinks
Divide, 2011 by Sam Jinks

In the flesh

Previous exhibition, 2014

In the flesh is an enthralling and immersive experience of contemporary art that confronts the concept of humanness and the experiences of consciousness and emotion. Featuring ten Australian artists including Jan Nelson, Patricia Piccinini, Ron Mueck and Michael Peck, the exhibition explores themes of intimacy, empathy, transience, transition, vulnerability, alienation, restlessness, reflection, mortality and acceptance.

The National Portrait Gallery
The National Portrait Gallery
The National Portrait Gallery

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.