In 2010 Sam Leach won the Archibald and Wynne Prizes, two of Australia's most famous awards for portraiture and landscape painting, becoming only the third person in the prizes' history to win both in the same year.
The two artists to achieve this rare distinction before him were 20th century greats Sir William Dobell and Brett Whiteley.
I remember seeing those two small paintings hanging in the Art Gallery of NSW and being struck by their beauty and exquisite detail. The debate surrounding his Wynne Prize painting that year, which caused a small media storm, is something we dive into in this episode.
I've been intrigued by Sam’s work ever since then. His art delves into the areas of science and nature, and in more recent years, he's used Artificial Intelligence and machine learning to initiate his paintings. It was fascinating to hear him talk about this approach.
With a distinctly surrealist feel, Sam's work also reveals his continued interest in the Dutch masters of the 17th century which began in his early career. In his current show at Sullivan+Strumpf in Sydney, moody utopian landscapes team up with incongruous elements such as huge 'bubbles' and globular and tubular forms often hinting at or including a human presence.
Other works depict animals, particularly polar bears, created from machine learning. These paintings, and the rather comical-looking Polar Bear Detector devised by Sam (where you can test how closely you resemble a polar bear) encourage us to see ourselves and the creatures with which we share the planet from a new perspective.
The exhibition, with the unsettling title ‘Everything Will Probably Be Fine’, continues until 16 July 2022.
Sam has exhibited in 30 solo shows nationally and across the globe, has won several other awards apart from the Archibald and Wynne, and his work is held by many private and public collections including Australia's National Portrait Gallery.
A short video of Sam talking about his work will be uploaded to the Talking with Painters YouTube channel in the coming weeks.
Scroll down for images of the works we discuss in this episode.
Press play to hear our conversation and scroll down for images of the works we talk about in this episode.
Above feature photo supplied by the artist
* 'Everything is going to be fine', solo show, Sullivan + Strumpf, Sydney, until 16 July 2022* 'Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prizes Exhibition', Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney, until 28 August
* Sam Leach (website)* Sam Leach (Instagram)* Sam Leach at Sullivan+Strumpf* Sam Leach talks with Professor Kate Crawford (Sullivan+Strumpf magazine article)* Professor Mandyam Svrinivasan talks about his work and his portrait by Sam Leach in the National Portrait Gallery (National Portrait Gallery video)
'Machine-assisted memory of Harewood Farm, Meadows', 2022oil on linen,
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