By Julia Wade
Taking a step into the unknown is often a daunting experience for most people, however for one local artist such a journey has liberated her artistic expression and led to her first exhibition in over ten years.
Multi-talented Mangawhai Heads artist, Wendy Leach, will showcase her new style - artworks that are vastly different from designs she was renowned for over a decade ago – in a solo show appropriately titled ‘New Work’, at Remuera’s ArtHAUS Orakei, February 15 to March 4.
“I’ve gone from painting New Zealand landscapes with brightly coloured pohutakawa’s to abstract designs, creating intuitively with no clear composition or outcome, sometimes working with the canvas on the floor so my whole body is now moving around the painting,” Leach says. “It is very liberating.”
A graduate of both Elam and Whitecliffe College art schools as well as a qualified high school teacher, Leach has worked as a professional artist since 1996. With twenty successful, sold-out exhibitions and travel adventures around New Zealand and overseas to inspire her art, she says her career was ‘humming along nicely… life was good’.
However in 2005 Leach noticed an internal shift, a dissatisfaction with her work and she began to question herself as an artist. A dramatic change of direction was required.
As a former art teacher Leach says she would always encourage students to challenge themselves in their work and to take risks without thinking too much about the results. However she admits that taking the leap herself was a difficult thing to do.
“It’s a big jump especially when you don’t know where you are jumping too,” she says. “It’s great to have skills and use them but you sometimes have to learn how to not use them… you need to unlearn what you know.”
Leach’s search for ‘more personal relevance and artistic integrity’ led her to become a student once again. Enrolling in a two year Masters of Fine Arts, she began to deconstruct and rebuild her ideas of who she was as well as herself as an artist. The process she says ‘led to a more meaningful and personally relevant way of working’ and resulted in the liberating creation of Leach’s graduation exhibition, ‘Light Paintings’ – photographs caught on slow shutter speed of moving coloured light – ‘which changed my art practise forever’.
Her current work evolved directly from the light paintings and are ‘large, energetic and visually powerful’, illustrating her fascination with lines and how different types influence one another, ‘consider the fragility of thin lines, the strength of thick lines, curved lines express fluid movement, diagonal lines appear unbalanced, filled with restless energy, perhaps even falling over’.
“As an artist I’ve just got to keep evolving,” she says. “There’s no going back now.”
Deconstructed and reformed artist Wendy Leach among the 37 art works of varied sizes ready to be showcased at her first solo exhibit in more than ten years.