By Megan Gorrey
FILLED with colour, line and movement, John Peart's paintings were a reflection of their creator: somewhat eccentric, endlessly curious and instantly likeable.
Campbelltown's art community is in mourning after Mr Peart — one of the key members of Wedderburn's famed artists colony — died aged 67.
Police believe the cause was smoke inhalation after a grass fire broke out at his Kenwood Drive property in the early hours of last Tuesday.
It was the second blow to the close-knit bohemian community following the death of abstract painter Roy Jackson from cancer in July this year.
Mr Peart's daughter Gara told the Advertiser her father was the patriarch of the family and his Wedderburn home was a hub for his five children and four grandchildren.
"He was a very loving person and very loving father," Ms Peart said.
"'He was a very generous spirit and always had time for people. And he had sense of humour and was very non-judgmental, and he cared a great deal for his community here. He will be missed."
Mr Peart was one of Australia's great modern artists and he was celebrated by a Campbelltown Arts Centre exhibition in 2004. He was also a keen protector of the local Georges River bushland.
Mr Peart's close friend and neighbour, fellow artist David Fairbairn, said he had a warm persona, an air of eccentricity and an enquiring mind.
"Every show was a surprise; he had a strong following as an experimentalist," Mr Fairbairn said. "He was just about to embark on this whole other chapter of his life, a whole new adventure."
The final time Mr Fairbairn saw his friend was at a gathering at Wedderburn the Saturday before last.
"John was there dancing and having a great time. He always had a lot of energy and vitality. And then a couple of days later he was gone."
Mr Peart was among a group of artists who lived and worked on a 25-acre block of land bequeathed to them by Barbara and Nick Romalis in the 1970s.
Together with other artists including Mr Jackson, Joan Brassil and Elisabeth Cummings, Mr Peart regularly showed his work at Campbelltown Arts Centre.
In 1997, he won the Wynne Prize and he took out the Sulman Prize in 2000.
His work is in the Art Gallery of NSW and Australian National Gallery.
In 2004, former Campbelltown Arts Centre director Lisa Havilah said Mr Peart had become "a major figure" in Australian painting.
In an interview at the time, Mr Peart said the fact many of his artwork's titles made reference to Wedderburn was "evidence that my surroundings have a way of finding their way into my work".
Mr Peart is survived by his children Gara, Simon, Mirabai, Jyoti and Janaki, and four grand-children Hamish, India, Iona and Phoenix.
A retrospective exhibition of Roy Jackson's works is on at the Drill Hall Gallery in Canberra until November 3.