You know, as a young boy I was fascinated with the story of the “Trojan Horse” and marvelled at the illustrated images of it from children books to it’s depiction on old black and white movies I would watch on Sunday afternoons in front of the television.
For anyone who is unaware, quick history lesson.. the Trojan Horse is a tale from the Trojan War about the subterfuge that the Greeks used to enter the city of Troy and win the war around 12th Century BC. In short, after a fruitless 10-year siege, the Greeks constructed a huge wooden horse, and hid a select force of men inside. The Greeks pretended to sail away, and the Trojans pulled the horse into their city as a victory trophy. That night the Greek force crept out of the horse and opened the gates for the rest of the Greek army, which had sailed back under cover of night. The Greeks entered and destroyed the city of Troy, decisively ending the war.
Fast forward to 2006 and I’m sitting having lunch in an old canteen room of a chemistry lab smack bang in the middle of a large iron and steel making plant. I’m eating sandwiches, looking out of a window and daydreaming about childhood.
Somewhere between the ham and cheese and the tuna salad I started thinking about that old Trojan Horse story and the analogies that could be made with the industry and town surrounding me. Food for thought right?
Anyway, before I knew it I was putting pen to scrap of paper and sketching out an image that I could never have imagined would resurface again years later in several incarnations, particularly as a large charcoal drawing and eventually an even bigger oil painting.
In the canteen on that day, over spilt bread crumbs.. I started reimagining the industrial giant surrounding me as that impenetrable steel horse, full of people I didn’t really know and how something.. at first appearing as a gift, might eventually become a threat to a community.
The hurried early sketch, the later charcoal and the current full colour painting come from that same place, that same feeling yet at the same time born from boyhood memory and wonder.
I’m not really one to wax lyrical about the philosophical nature or meaning of a painting, but I hope the viewer recognises and understands the underlying metaphor of the work, and it’s very real semblance to the situation this town and many others throughout Australia are currently finding themselves in.
Ok, my 2015 Trojan Horse is finished and it’s inclusion as a finalist in a $25000 art prize is even more heartening for me, especially as it’s audience are the very people that the painting was/is meant for. People who live in a place of dependence.. and that because of it or in spite of it their community relies on a nearby resource. In this case a resource industry that is in crisis mode where the world ore price is having such a significant effect on both national and regional economies, peoples livelihood and the ultimate wellbeing of their families.
For everyones sake I am hoping things change for the better. For now there is much waiting. Waiting for what will happen next.
“The Trojan Horse [the ore price cometh]”
180 x 120cm. Oil on board
Leith O’Malley – Artists statement:
Historically, artists were once the voice of their community.
Their work was often a form of meaningful and topical social commentary. They spoke for the people.
Art was, and still is a valuable communication tool.
Reflecting on the current economic climate, my painting provides a satirical viewpoint via a palette of equal parts metaphor and oil paint.
These are uncertain, times for a lot of communities.
I hope my work speaks to that uncertainty.