Oct 2015 feature artist Leigh Arnold

Leigh Arnold’s work is familiar to many of the regular visitors to Nimbin Artists Gallery over the nine years he has exhibited there. Viewing his work, visitors are first stuck by his three dimensional paintings, which, viewed through 3D glasses are astonishing for their realistic depth. His mathematical paintings represent a different strand of his work, though in fact there is a considerable crossover. In fact Leigh is absorbed in the geometrically patterned nature of the world we live in, whether it occurs in nature, in astronomy or in mathematics.

Leigh says that he has always attempted to defy the flat surface that paintings occupy, originally through the creation of mathematical patterns which repeat themselves, sometimes growing in minutely measured increments. It’s often assumed that such accurate, controlled measurements must be achieved with the help of a computer, but Leigh does all this by hand, starting with a conception of the finished work in his mind, then making a pencilled grid across the canvas, which is then painted and then treated with washes or other effects. The gradual magnification of the patterns creates the impression that the surface is somehow warped or distorted out of its flatness.

The effect of the 3D paintings is achieved by the knowing management of colour. In Leigh’s space-scapes, viewers find themselves afloat in a space populated with stars, planets of different bright colours. This originally began when Leigh experimented with juxtaposing colours and tones to make some features appear to stand forward from the background. Pursuing this effect, he found the 3D effect was stronger if the painting was viewed at an angle. Then one day someone came with a pair of 3D glasses and suggested using them to view a painting. This was a eureka moment, for suddenly the 3D effect was dramatically real, and it no longer depended on the viewing angle. Since then Leigh has developed this mode extensively, and now uses this method on small and large canvases.

The other great passion in his life is mathematics, and it is the geometric basis of much of the world’s art that fascinates him. Questioned about his influences, he speaks of the elements of symmetry and geometry underlying the wide range of non-Western art he has explored around the world and Australia, citing among others Asian, South Pacific, Islamic and African art. He also speaks of the cross-hatch techniques used in some of the aboriginal art of Arnhem land, examples of which can also be seen in our local aboriginal art. He finds that the art of these various sources draws on the same mathematical patterns lying beneath many of the forms occurring in nature. In biology we have the relationship between molecules, and at the geological level we have the formation of rock, diamonds, and the patterning of ice and snowflakes.

You will be able to see a range of his work and get an idea of how he incorporates all these interests and influences if you visit Nimbin Artists Gallery over the next six weeks and see the special display of his paintings we are running.

STOP PRESS: Leigh’s display went up in the Gallery on Monday, and on Tuesday a visitor came in, a professor of chemistry from the Netherlands, and bought the entire set of five paintings entitled ‘Into the Void’.

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