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Archibald Prize finalist Kim Leutwyler on her bold and powerful portraits of women.

“I depict ways in which women modify their bodies, take on various permutations of androgyny, and are celebrated for it,”

Welcome to Mamamia’s art endeavour, the Voulez-Vous Project. Every week we celebrate emerging artists, designers, illustrators and creators. Our aim: to help the internet become a slightly more beautiful, captivating, or thought-provoking place by making art accessible. Click here to see all the previous Voulez-Vous posts.

You might recognise Kim Leutwyler’s unique aesthetic. It’s bold, bright and powerful. Big blocks of colour flow in and out with her subjects, which are predominantly portraits of  LGBTQI-identified and queer-allied women. One of her works was most recently nominated as a finalist in this year’s Archibald prize, and Leutwyler is quickly gaining a loyal following for her incredible work.

Growing up in the United States, Leutwyler moved to Australia in three years ago.

“I had the pleasure of living all over the country and consider myself a bit of a nomad. I have concurrent bachelor degrees in Studio and Art History from Arizona State University, and additionally graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago with a Painting and Drawing degree. I visited Australia 10 years ago while studying abroad at the University of Auckland in New Zealand and fell in love with Sydney. For the past decade I’ve always spoken about making it back, so I migrated here in 2012,” Leutwyler says.

Midsummer AC kimleutwyler
Midsummer AC.

Leutwyler works with a huge range of mediums, including ceramics, sculpture, printmaking, textiles,  print and drawing, but has now come to focus on painting as a medium because of its primarily masculine history in western artwork.

“The main obstacle I faced after University was that I had very little opportunity to use the facilities required to create new work. When I found myself in search of a creative outlet, I turned to drawing and painting in my living room with my flat mate. Lucky for me she happens to be an incredible painter so I learned from the best! By entering into the modernist painting field I plan to continue to destabilize gender borders just as LGBT artists have been doing since the ’70s and earlier. In the future, I see my artwork stimulating dialogue in both the feminist and mainstream art worlds,” Leutwyler says.

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“The bodies of LGBTQ-identified and Queer-allied women in my paintings are evolving with their social environment. I depict ways in which women modify their bodies, take on various permutations of androgyny, and are celebrated for it,” Leutwyler explains.

Sam and Mon kimleutwyler
Sam and Mon.

Her more recent work has evolved and become more intertwined with Leutwyler’s personal life. Many of her  portraits feature her partner and her dearest friends, including one portrait that was nominated as a finalist in this year’s Archibald Prize, of her good friend, Ollie Henderson.

“There’s not much of a story [behind it] really, although Ollie and I have joked about making up an epic origin story for the portrait. Ollie and I met through a mutual friend who she was dating at the time. I have a habit of staring at my friends, studying their features and mixing their colour palettes in my mind.  I found myself studying Ollie’s unique features when we met, and a few months later I asked if she’d be willing to sit for my Archibald portrait,” Leutwyler says.

“As a feminist member of the LGBTQ community, Ollie publicly speaks openly about the objectification inherent to a career in modeling, and the unrealistic modification of images that sets unattainable standards of beauty.  Ollie is constantly evolving both in relation and opposition to her social environment, fighting against binary gender standards by taking on various permutations of androgyny. I can’t think of a more fitting subject for my work,” Leutwyler says.

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Start the Riot full size
Start the Riot. Leutwyler’s portrait of her friend, Ollie Henderson.

Leutwyler is also passionate about philanthropy, and founded a project, called PhilanthropART, six years ago, to donate a portion of the proceeds of her original artwork sold to various non-profit organisations.

“My idea of “success as an artist” has always been to change the world through artistic vision and funding for non-profit organizations and the arts.  I hope to eventually include other artists in the project.  Feel free to suggest new organisations or provide feedback via [email protected], or by connecting with PhilanthropART on Facebook,”

Leutwyler  has also been selected as the winner of the 2016 Midsumma guide cover competition, where her artwork will be featured throughout the festival, as well as throughout various queer media outlets.   You can read more about Leutwyler and check out more of her work on her website.

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Do you know an artist (or are YOU an artist) who creates beautiful or thought-provoking work and whom you think should be featured on Mamamia’s Voulez-Vous Project? Send an email to [email protected]mamamia.com.au.

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