Opening speech for Florilegium by Carlier Makigawa, August 2007
I have known Leah for many years firstly as a student at RMIT studying gold and silversmithing and later as a friend and colleague working in the field. Leah had completed a degree in printmaking at the VCA before coming to RMIT to study jewellery and she has always impressed me with her commitment and fluency for generating ideas through drawing. Her books were a joy to explore and here today you get some insight into these books through the slide presentation. She was always able to generate an outpouring of ideas that were thoughtful and resolved. This exhibition is a culmination of years of research and practice.
Leah says of her exhibition that she uses botanical imagery concerned with the environment, bare branches and roots of trees, as a collection of rare moments where plants talk to us about our lives. She has worked with and researched these ideas and forms for many years, she has many sketchbooks of images exploring her concerns and has taken classes in botanical drawing to enhance her understanding of the plant biology. Last year she undertook an artist residency at Hill End, an isolated community near the town of Bathurst. With this isolation – being alone and observing the landscape, some areas barren and others covered with trees – experiencing nature directly, she lived in it and walked through it, all the while drawing and making models. This has been a major turning point in her artistic life where she has had the time to draw together ideas and long held beliefs about the environment. It is a long tradition of artist residencies that allow the artist to explore and experience a different space and translate that experience into a coherent body of work. This experience of the residency in the bush was formative for Leah, it gave her time to process these ideas and when back in her studio she developed and formulated her language in metal to best express these ideas. Now with the focus of a solo show we get to see the culmination of such an experience, a collection of ideas, a moment in time of her thoughts translated into metal. Leah has created forms from nature, branches and root systems that speak to her of other concerns such as global warming, climate change, water shortage and genetically modified organisms. She has created brooches and objects that capture that moment of observation and connection with nature. They appear as small sculptures that twist and turn and stand convincingly, exploring the essence of life. They are mechanical, sinuous and spikey at the same time, perhaps suggesting that we should be aware and take care.
Congratulations Leah and I hope you all enjoy the show.