The story of how I became an artist is not a particularly thrilling one: I enjoyed painting at school and I’ve done it ever since.

Art school spoils you a bit (I went to Camberwell in London) because you get given this big space in which to paint and you get used to painting very large canvases. When you enter the real world, you discover that studio space — especially the large space artists often need — is very expensive. For many years I didn’t paint at all because I was waiting until I had the space to do it. But when I came to Singapore I decided that day would never come, so I started off painting very small paintings on A3 paper. And the work has grown from there.

I used to imagine that nothing less than a huge studio with great big canvases on the wall would be ‘serious’. But now, I’ve realised that your work is only as serious as you make it and you can work on the scale that your circumstances allow you to without having to compromise quality. I’ve learned not to sit around waiting for conditions to be “just right” for painting. In other words, don’t wait — just get on with it. Even if you are painting on the back of an envelope, you are painting. You are making something and you are thinking about it… And once that process gets started, it tends to take on a life of its own.

I tend to select a certain kind of subject matter or theme and paint it many many times — pretty obsessively — until I feel I’ve exhausted all the possibilities of it. This particular exhibition contains a few examples from each of the big series I have made over the past four years, the oldest being the E&A Series and the newest, the Eisner Series, which is also what I’m most excited about at the moment.

I don’t think of art as a career in any way; there is no ladder, there aren’t any promotions, and — on the plus side — you can’t get fired. I like the fact that it isn’t a career. When you paint, you are just following your own inspiration and inner voice and pushing yourself to make the best work you can. If people like the work and, better still, buy it, that’s an amazing source of reassurance. But for me, the value of the work is being happy with what I have created, not with the amount that it may have sold for. The motivation to paint is something that’s just ‘in you’ and you would do anyway.

Leo’s fourth local exhibition will be hanging at The Working Capitol on Keong Saik through the month of March. You can learn more about him here.

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