Category Archives: OLIVER, LESLIE

Interview: Leslie Oliver

What is your earliest memory of making art?
I did a large pencil drawing of a house with smoke out the chimney and a man walking down a path leading from the front door towards the viewer. I did this on the inside of the door of a new home-made lowboy that my dad had made for me. It was gloss white and inside the doors were a beautiful soft matt sky blue – irresistible to a 4 year old. I was very proud but Mum and Dad displayed mixed feelings.

One day in kindergarten I clearly remember we were given a segmented five pointed star to colour-in. Most students did this in a flash with quick rough scribbles. I was trying to fill in the segments with rich even engaging colour combinations, very careful to stay within the lines. I was devastated when the teacher called “time’s up”. It was clear we were not expected to do this task properly. It was a throw-away activity. Making things well was not the aim.

The next life changing event was getting a set of encyclopedias, Science, Peoples and Places, Art and Architecture. In particular I discovered the paintings of Vincent Van Gogh. On a rainy Saturday I asked my mum to buy me some paints (an extravagance at the time) she did (to my surprise and delight) and I painted a copy of Van Gogh’s wriggling “Wheat Field with Cypresses”. I fell in love with this man and his crazy painted truths. I was 10 and Mum still has it.


When preparing for your last exhibition, did you create works around a theme or did the links between the works reveal themselves later on?
For my show Love Stories I had a clear theme for the sculptures I made. I explored relationship between forms, colours, found objects and their uses to play with the idea of the dependency in couples. When placed in the proximity or context of another form (person) a different kind of identity is defined. In past shows I have always made thematic connections between works, inviting the viewer to see connections however in this show it was fore-fronted.

Describe the space in which you create your works (studio, lounge room etc):
I rent a workshop/studio space approximately 5m x 7m in a building full of artist spaces at 1+2 Studios, Darling St in Rozelle. I have a range of power tools including a band saw, large disc and belt sander, gas and mig welders, a wood lathe (my dad made for me) and many hand tools. I have three large hardwood benches made from old stairs salvaged from the Boronia St Gallery I helped build for Brenda in 1993. It is full of salvaged materials an I like it tidy. Hot when hot cold when cold. I usually listen to ABC Radio National. Most sculpture is ‘grind’ work. A small simple idea can take days of sweat to achieve.

Do you have a favourite piece or favourite pieces? If so, which piece/s and why?
I do not have particularly strong favourites. I like to come across forgotten pieces in peoples collections and see that they have a life beyond me. I enjoy seeing them through other peoples eyes. Thought it is hard to get lucid feedback I sense peoples interest (or lack of). Occasionally I regret letting a piece out of the studio because it is not properly alive. I want to take those pieces home and give them more love. If I have rescued a weak sculpture I have warmer feelings toward it.


What has been, for you, a defining moment in your career as an artist?
The first defining moment was being in the Foundation Sculpture class of Brian O’Dwyer at Alexander Mackie CAE. Brian’s elegant charm, passion for sculpture and “cruel” love for his students drove me to win his admiration. His very demanding but focused exercises were the very challenge I needed at the time in my life. Another defining moment was to be asked to be a technical assistant to Bob Klippel . Being asked was a great honour and privilege however the experience of being in his studio and seeing his delicate works and seeing Bob’s belief in art was transforming. Until this time I had no idea that cold metal forms could be so emotionally charged. Abstract constructions of exquisite beauty.

What did you eat for breakfast?
A blueberry muffin and a strong white coffee. The cake varies, usually with fruit but the coffee is constant. I prefer to have this after being up and awake for an hour or two. If I’m in the studio (far too rarely) this is the time when I sit and contemplate my next move.

May 2014 exhibitions

Please join us for drinks with the Artists
Wednesday 21 May 5:30-7:30pm

▶ LESLIE OLIVER, Walking Sticks – Crooks, Staves and Scepters
“As a person ultimately drawn to making sculpture, I have always enjoyed a direct connection to simple physical objects. As a boy I … went on many walks and hiking camps and would find myself a special stick to carry and befriend. Around a campfire I would decorate it with burn marks made with hot wire … All these things play a part in the my personal pleasure of making ‘walking sticks’.”

▶ HELEN MUELLER, ships in the night
“Humble pods pass us by unnoticed, to deliver their cargo of life. They are like ships in the night. Once spent, they vanish, their beauty and importance unacknowledged. In making this work, I wanted to halt their disappearance, pay them close attention, and celebrate their wonder.”


headon2014blackboxHead On Photo Festival
Prizes for Multimedia

13 May to 7 June 2014

Join us tonight for the launch from 6-8pm!
Expect the unexpected in our Black Box Project space, exhibiting the finalists for the Head on Photo Festival, Fine Art and Documentary Multimedia Prize.

Head On is Australia’s largest photography festival celebrating excellence in all genres from photo-artists from across the globe and provides a major platform for discovering new talent, re- discovering established artists and exploring new technologies and ideas.