‘Endless summer’ 2013, by Leah Mariani Artworks photographed by Iain Sim Photography

Colour Box Studio is currently featuring our members wonderful creativity and hard work, explaining in detail their process and inspiration. First up is the talented Leah Mariani, a Melbourne based artist, who uses a combination of mediums with bright colours, covering themes of family, relationships and fashion.

Tell us a little bit about yourself please and a quick overview on your creative process.

I’m an ‘ideas’ person. I have so many things going on in my head and not enough time to execute them. I’m also very impatient. So although I love detail and pattern I like to use collage as a means of achieving a perfect, consistent effect without all the pain staking slow and repetitive work. Additionally, the combination of different mediums together (watercolour with pencil or collage with paint) adds and an extra layer of tension and complexity to the piece which I find interesting.

My favourite type of art is portraiture and figurative art. I am interested in people’s relationships and our preoccupation with how other people view us. Our opinion of ourselves is derived from our perception of how we are viewed by others.

What has led you to choose a creative pathway?

I don’t feel like it’s a choice. Creative expression is a necessary part of my life, just like socialising or exercising. I have worked out that I am nicer person if I have it in my life. I only started to consider it a serious career alternative after all storage options had been exhausted and I thought to myself: maybe I should try and sell some of this art work that I am creating, as I am running out of room!


In your ‘I like pretty things’ series, particularly why did you focus on women as your subject and not men?

Typically women are objectified more than men and used in advertising more than men, which is why they are the focus of my series on objectification. That is not to say that men are not objectified as well.

Tied up with string
Tied up with string, 2015 by Leah Mariani Artworks photographed by Iain Sim Photography

In this series, there is a particular piece, where your subject is depicted with having puppet strings. Why did you decide to have her in puppet strings? Also, specifically why is there only one?

Why is there only one puppet or only one string? There are many strings and only one woman. Women are often pulled simultaneously in many directions, across many stereo types, such as the seductress, the mother, the career woman, the virgin saint- hence the many strings.

The model’s stance, which I observed in a popular brand’s advertising campaign, struck me as awkward and unnatural. She is stiff and inflexible, making her look like a doll. The aim is to de-humanise the model, as she is only there to make the items she is wearing look good and has no purpose or value other than that. So I decided to exaggerate her doll-like qualities to bring attention to this point. I exaggerated her awkward stance, gave her a wig-like hair style and painted rosy cheeks on her and a vacant expression. The string was added to hold up her doll-like arms. Finally, I added cute little bow ties to make her look more naïve and helpless.

We know that you are inspired by Gustav Klimt’s work. It specifically seen in your collages, what makes you resonate with his work and how has it impacted yours?

I love pattern. I assume it’s the accountant side of me that is attracted to repetition and order as a way of organising the world.

I also love portraiture. What appeals to me about Klimt is that he is able to combine figurative painting with elements that are decorative. He is able to remain true to the representation of the sitter as well as capture an aura of something magical and fantastical through his use of colour and pattern. He combines realism and abstract in a seamless manner.

Does the time period of art nouveau influence your work a lot? If so, what is it about that period that you’re attracted to?

I do like love nouveau and the art deco period that followed. I am attracted to the use of clean lines, delicate patterns, elegant design and geometric forms.

What recent artist has made you just stand still for a while and analyse their work? Are there any Melbourne based artist that you recommend other than your awesome self?

Every week I have a new favourite artist. I must concede that most of them are female. Some of my most recent infatuations include: Monica Rohan (Brisbane), Chloe Vallance (Melbourne) and Helen Di Tomasso (Mornington). Some other Melbourne artists I admire include Sally Smart, Monika Tichacek, Dena Kahn and Michael Peck. I could go on and on…

Your work are mostly made up of wonderful mixed media and can enable you to be flexible with what you want to create, have you collaborated with the artist lately or have you ever considered it?

It’s not something I have thought about, but should the opportunity arise I would definitely be interested.

Life is a merry-go-round
Life is a merry-go-round, 2014 by Leah Mariani Artworks photographed by Iain Sim Photography

In your collages, your subjects are in different settings and environments, are they mostly inspired by your current location?

It’s difficult not to be influences by your surroundings. However, despite that, most of my work could be set anywhere. I am less interested in my physical environment and more interested the people who inhabit it.

The secret garden
The secret garden, 2014 by Leah Mariani Artworks photographed by Iain Sim Photography


In reference to ‘The cocktail hour’ what was your process in creating this piece? Did you sit near the ladies and watch their interaction? What was it about their presence that made you want to put them in your art?

I appropriated that image from a vogue photoshoot set in Paris from the 1920’s. I loved the intimacy of the two women- it seems like the kind of friendship in which comfortable silences can exist and it reminded me of my two best friends. I decided to modernise the image, bringing it into the here and now, as well as add some pattern.

Leah Mariani Artworks photographed by Iain Sim Photography
The cocktail hour by Leah Mariani Artworks photographed by Iain Sim Photography

With your subjects, what makes you want to draw or include them in your art work?

My favourite subjects are my husband and my two sons who I often paint. However it is difficult to get them to sit still for more than 2 minutes (including my husband) so I work from photographs.

At other times I have an idea of what I want to create and I use a model or royalty free photos as the basis of my composition. More often than not I have to work from photos as it can be difficult to find someone who has the right look, is available and affordable, on short notice.

Sometimes I see an image that resonates with me and it inspires me to do a piece, as in the case of “The cocktail hour”.

What is your favourite art project that you’ve worked on and why?

Whatever I am currently working on is my favourite thing. The truth is that I get most excited about starting something new. Every blank canvas is a new opportunity, with unlimited potential and no mistakes in it………yet!

Heading out for a cup of tea
Heading out for a cup of tea, 2015 by Leah Mariani Artworks photographed by Iain Sim Photography

 What made you continue creating art full time? and what makes you feel most inspired to create?

It’s a bit of a myth that I create art full time. I am a mother of two active boys who require a lot of attention. I also work and study part-time so although I try to do something creative very day I don’t actually produce art full time.

A lot of artists struggle to continually come up with new ideas. My problem is the opposite. I have so many ideas and not enough time to see them all into fruition.

What are your upcoming future projects?

“I like pretty things” will be showing at Interference Space for one weekend 20th – 23rd of November. Interference Space is a new pop-up gallery located at 402 Chapel St, South Yarra, Victoria.

Currently I am seeking another exhibition space for “I like pretty things” for 2016 and planning my next body of work.

 Where can we find more about you online?

Follow LeahMarianiArtSpace on Facebook and Instagram. To see more of my recent work, as well as past exhibitions, go to www.leahmariani.com. Stay up-to-date with upcoming exhibitions and other projects by signing up to my biannual newsletter.

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