(above) Sam Leach Cinder in Constructed World 2011, oil and resin on wood, 25 x 25 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Sullivan+Strumpf Fine Art, Sydney (above right) Sam Leach Flat Worlds 2011, oil and resin on wood, 40 x 40 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Sullivan+Strumpf Fine Art, Sydney
In this latest exhibition at TarraWarra Museum of Art, Sam Leach matches the comic genius of his 2010 Archibald Prize winning subject, Tim Minchin, with his own artistic genius. The intellectual rigour Leach applies to this work is impressive. He has artfully woven contemporary philosophical thinking and developments in scientific exploration through this body of work.
This is an especially ‘TWMA exhibition’ as he has taken his initial inspiration directly from works within the TWMA’s permanent collection. Ralph Balson and Edwin Tanner’s works have clearly struck a chord with Leach. He has taken their ideas concerning science, technology and philosophy, updating and reinterpreting them in his own inimitable way.
The specific works that have provided inspiration, sit beside Leach’s images within the gallery space so that visitors can see the references at first hand. Ralph Balson’s Constructive painting 1963, is reworked in Leach’s images (above) where the chimpanzee, Cinder, sits comfortably in the Balson inspired ‘world’.
The works are relatively small in size with images given a solid finish of resin, thereby adding to their strength and luminosity.
Sam Leach Tannerites Raft 2011, oil and resin on wood, 45 x 35 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Sullivan+Strumpf Fine Art, Sydney
The series inspired by Edwin Tanner’s work (above and below) wherein Tanner explored philosophical ideas recorded in the writings of Ludwig Wittgenstein, offer imagery at once unique, disquieting and provocative. Leach has expanded on the philosphical underpinnings of Tanner’s work to include a visual exploration of the relationship between humans and nonhuman inanimate objects. TWMA’s curator Anthony Fitzpatrick describes this well in his erudite essay printed in the exhibition catalogue, Sam Leach The Ecstasy of Infrastructure, when he says,
For Leach, this equivalence between man and machine is not only a response to changes wrought by new scientific discoveries but also represents new conceptions of human and nonhuman relations in contemporary philosophy.
According to Fitzpatrick, the visual inspiration for these works has come in the form of images sourced from the NASA archives.
Sam Leach The Engineers 2011, oil and resin on wood, 45 x 35 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Sullivan+Strumpf Fine Art, Sydney
These works are not for the intellectually faint hearted. It is useful for the viewer to enter into the fields of scientific discovery and philosophical meaning making to fully appreciate the messages therein. If you’re up for some intellectual rigour of your own, don’t miss this exhibition, due to close on 4th March.
If you’re quick you will catch William Delafield Cook A Survey as well.
I for one, hope that Sam Leach is featured in this years Archibald Prize…something to look forward to… at TWMA again this year.