Milk Artist: Michael Peck

Milk Made: Who is Michael Peck?

Michael Peck: I’m an artist. I paint realist art. I really love to paint. I grew up in Melbourne Australia. I’m a fairly normal person. I mean I use to go out when I was younger. I lived in London for a bit. Now I have a wife and 3 kids. For me it’s about a balance between providing for my family and also doing justice to my art.

MM: When did you first realize your passion for art?

MP: It wasn’t really a specific time. My mom was always interested in art. She was always drawing and had pastels and paints around. I think that it’s one thing I could lock my brain into doing. I could spend several hours just drawing pictures.

My parents were the type that tried to get me interested in musical instruments. I remember my parents putting a timer on top of the piano and setting it for half an hour and then I’d just practice. I hated the idea of being confined in a space and trying to learn something. It doesn’t work that way. It happens because you find a way into it and then you find a way to expand on it.

MM: Do other artists inspire you?

MP: They always change. When I was young I really loved surrealists like Salvador Dali. I liked Jean-Michel Basquiat. The artists I like don’t make art like what I make. I like their work because it’s really an outpouring of themselves rather than something technical. I don’t completely understand it because it’s not what I do, but that’s why I like it. Their ideas are touching and I like artist that surprise me.

At the moment, I really like Mark Tansey. He’s an American artist who has a similar monochromatic palette to mine.

MM: Yeah, there’s a distinct purpose in your paintings that make an observer take a minute to question their meanings.

MP: I’m not trying to make my painting too scripted. I don’t want people to be like, “I know what he’s saying, I get it.” I rather them connect emotionally. People come up to me and tell me their experiences and how a specific painting relates to them, memories from their past. They tell me the feeling that this painting gives them.

If you can make someone stop and actually take in the work then that’s really important. There’s something engaging in the work that stands out and makes someone question what’s going on.

MM: You’ve shared your upcoming solo exhibition entitled ‘The Landing.’ What inspired this collection of works?

MP: Last year, both of my grandfathers passed away and they were the last two members from that generation in my family to go. It started making me think how their lives had been.

Maybe a couple months before that happened I had a conversation with one of my grandfathers that really stuck out to me. It was about WWII and most people from that generation don’t speak of those memories. They’re too traumatic.

I had found a couple photos from a ship he sailed on in the Navy. He was 19 years old. I asked him where he had gone. He had been all over the world. He spoke about a time when he was on leave back in London and he mentioned an airplane crashing. He remembered seeing a whole group of children who came out and played on it like it was play equipment.

As an image for me that was amazing. This idea of children transforming something from war into something of which can be played in was quite beautiful. So much happened in that era that is lost. I think that this exhibition for me is really my way of exploring and trying to understand what happened in my grandparent’s generation.

MM: What about the targets? What symbolism do you see in them?

MP: I found a picture of a woman painting a star on the wing of an airplane. It was the American insignia at the time so I started thinking of how that would look if I changed it into the British insignia (blue circle with a white circle in the middle), and changed it into a target with a child painted instead. It started to be like the child was painting a target around themselves and, from my perspective, the idea of children exploring something they don’t understand directly correlated with my exploration of my grandparent’s generation.

MM: What’s your favorite painting from this exhibition?

MP: I love all the paintings but there’s the girl who is looking down at the target, and it’s kind of like she’s staring into a void. I really liked this idea.

MM: It’s all very cathartic. What about your ‘untitled’ painting of the boy in the puddle?

MP: Yeah, that one is a little bit different from the rest. It does and it doesn’t directly relate to the rest of the exhibition. It’s sort of like an island on it’s own. I see birds as a symbol for a few different things. They seem heroic and symbolize freedom, but at the same time they can symbolize something that hovers over your shoulders creating weight. In this case it’s a figure that is overwhelmed by everything all at once. It’s anxiety. It’s worry. I think that we all have those moments in our lives.

It’s important because these moments in our lives are a badge of honor that we hold on to. They were moments that were hard at the time, but they make us who we are today. It’s important to pay homage to where we come from.

— Jessica Conatser

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