The bold colour of Leith O’Malley

551_large-001Leith O’Malley is a South Australian Visual Artist with an array of big clients such as BHP Australia, Ericson Finland and Mitsubishi Motors. That is really just to name a few.

As I look through the portfolio of Leith’s work I am stuck mainly by his response to the isolation felt by people who reside a great distance from the city.  Living in Whyalla gives his work a unique fresh feeling that I am drawn to.  I love his Red dust girl series.  They are simple with their rich earthy outback palette. The surface of the canvas seems to almost sizzle with the heat. Deep cobalt blue skies stretch out across each of the seasons. The girl floats above the outback landscape. Her feet pointed angelically toward the earth. The seasons come and pass yet she is removed from them. She stares out at us in some works inviting us in and in others it is a radiant mesmerising contemplation that I can see. Bold outlines frame for the viewer forthright tonal variations within the girl’s facial features.  Within her features there is wisdom. Is she is an angelic apparition? Perhaps she is a phantom one might imagine with continual isolation. In so many ways she is beautiful.

Leith began his career as an illustrator in Adelaide but it wasn’t until he completed a workshop with the famous George Gittoes that he began painting in earnest. Some of his style and use of colour still carries this influence.  He does not only use oil as a medium but has diversified to using digital means to portray his messages. His work is often centrally arranged, reflecting an illustrative background. His composition though is spot on. There is little room for error.

Most recently I came across his work at The Geoffrey Stapleton Gallery on Prospect rd.  His work there is titled “Picasso, Bacon, Warhol. Art Ride No. 1? an oil and collage on stretched canvas. It is well work a look as it resides in an exhibition titled “Seeing Cycles” until the 5th of February.

This work is in many ways a response to the journey that creative people take as they travel through life. He has chosen for his subject three artists; Pablo Picasso, Francis Bacon and Andy Warhol. This work reminds me of the TV show the “goodies” with their three person bike. The use of text is also interesting. Text is always rather loud when used in a work.  Leith manages to expertly make it work by dulling its contrast through analogous colour; drawing your eye to the action of the riders. Again the use of collage is a dominant aspect of this work. Yet it is subtle in its approach. It invites you in and looks as though the pages of O’Malley’s well-read Art history books have been donated to the cause. I can also see the influences of the artists themselves within the use of technique.  Francis Bacon’s; thumping, pulsating contrast and tone. I can see Picasso’s use of collage and cut out text. Warhol’s influence is perhaps shown in the very construction of this work. It reflects the Tour Down Under with its motif.

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