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Leah Mariani: Contrast & Figurative Explorations

Art Lovers | 5 August 2022

Written by Anna Itkonen


Leah Mariani is a figurative artist based in Melbourne. Her art explores identity, society’s expectations and her experiences as a woman and a mother. Her canvases are a combination of delicate figures and structured patterns. “I love that contrast between 2-dimensional patterns and the 3-dimensional figures. It is a very deliberate choice,” she said. “I am driven by my head rather than my heart, and that is reflected on the canvas.”

2022 Somedays by Leah Mariani

Some Days | 60 x 70cm | Mixed media – acrylic & oil on wood panel

Leah has been drawing from the moment she could hold a pencil. While art remained her hobby throughout university, she pursued a career in accounting after her studies. With full-time work, life was busy, and there was less and less time for art. It wasn’t until she fell pregnant in 2009 that she felt an overwhelming desire to return to it. “Some women get the urge to nest when they are pregnant, but I had the need to create. Since then, I haven’t looked back.”

2021 Hand Of Fate #4 by Leah Mariani

Hand of Fate No 4 | 25 x 20cm | Mixed media – acrylic & oil on wood panel

Leah works predominantly with oils when painting the hands and faces of human figures. Her interest in patterns, then again, presents itself through the use of stencils, printmaking and collage, and lately, her own patterns using stamp-making techniques. “I suspect my attraction to pattern comes from my love of order, which is why I’m also an accountant, but I also like the flat, decorative element it adds, which somehow makes the work more playful.”

2022 Star Light

Leah Mariani with her work.. Star Light | 45 x 45cm | Acrylic on canvas

Her recent paintings explore the narratives of being a woman and the aspects of feminism through Greek mythology and folklore fairy tales. “Last year, I was working on a series inspired by the women in Greek Mythology. It started with the story of Medusa after I read a book about her. Not knowing a lot about her previously, I was surprised to discover that she’d never hurt anyone while she was alive. Although often portrayed as a monster, she hid in a cave during her lifetime to avoid causing harm to others. She acted only in self-defence, and in the post-mortem, her head was used as a weapon,” Leah said. “It got me wondering about how many other female Greek deities had been misrepresented in art and popular culture, and this got me on a journey of research and discovery, which inspired a whole series of paintings.”

2021 Medusa After Klimt by Leah Mariani

Medusa after Klimt | 61 x 111cm | Mixed media – acrylic & oil on canvas

“Then, earlier this year, my oldest son started to show signs of changing from a child to an adolescent, which sent me into a deep nostalgia for his boyhood. I dropped the mythical women series like a hot potato and spent the first half of this year working on a series of my sons. I wanted to capture them before they move into a different stage of life.”

Green Ninja by Leah Mariani

Green ninja | 45 x 45cm | Mixed media – acrylic & oil on wood panel

Leah has a well-thought-of and deliberate approach to her art. Her paintings are meticulously planned beforehand, directions or themes are a conscious decision to try something new, and her art is a reflection of the time it was painted, her emotions or experiences and the subject matter.

Persephone & Demeter | 94 x 64cm | Oil & acrylic on canvas

Her creativity doesn’t end in painting, though. She is a passionate writer as well and publishes her thoughts and writings. “In recent years, I have pondered some issues, and sometimes pictures cannot communicate it. When I start a new series, I tend to write what I am trying to convey, like a pitch. It is very useful and helps me order my thoughts. If I wasn’t an artist, I would love to be a writer.”

Visit Leah’s Shop

Leah Mariani is exhibiting as a part of the Gestalt Exhibition at our Art Lovers Australia Gallery in Melbourne, until the 10th of September.

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