One of the latest additions to the UTS Art Collection is a still life by Sam Leach, Helmet for Cosmist. It depicts a helmet, used by pilots during high altitude testing, that has been jauntily crowned with a tuft of feathers. It’s a wonderful combination of skilled photo-realist painting and whimsy. Although a futuristic subject, this decoration brings to mind more ancient uses of similar headgear – the crests and plumes symbolising rank or social status.

For the artist, this painting was inspired by his interest in the origins of the Russian cosmists and what he calls “their utopian techno mysticism”. Indeed, Helmet for Cosmist represents an interesting new direction in Leach’s work, and was highly commended in 2017 in the biennial Still: National Still Life award.

Arguably, however, Leach is best known for his exquisite portrait of Tim Minchin, which won the Archibald Prize in 2010. In the same year, he took out the Wynne Prize (an annual award for the best Australian landscape painting) for his Proposal for landscaped cosmos.

Since that time, Leach has continued to build a portfolio of painted and sculptural works informed by art history, science, and philosophy, overlaying and combining highly detailed realism with a cool, reductive aesthetics and at times elements of geometric abstraction.

Janet Ollevou

U Mag March 2018
Art & U profiles a piece of work from the UTS Art Collection every issue

Sam Leach