Photographer Lea Colombo’s Searing Ode to Colour and the Nude

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Colours of My Body
Colours of My Body (2021)Courtesy of Lea Colombo

Speaking in her own words, the South African artist tells AnOther about her highly personal new exhibition and book, Colours of My Body, and her enduring love of colour

With just a glance at one of Lea Colombo’s photographs, you’ll instantly recognise it as hers: dreamlike and saturated in exquisite colour, the self-taught South African artist’s work is a kaleidoscopic exploration of femenine energy, the self, and the emotion-provoking potential of colour. 

Colombo’s distinctive style has made her a favourite of leading fashion publications and brands alike – from Dazed and i-D, to Marni and Versace. This year, though, the artist has been working tirelessly on a searching, entirely personal project which sees her turn the camera on herself. Titled Colours of My Body, the explorative work has formed Colombo’s first solo show – currently staged in both Cape Town and Los Angeles – and a mammoth 600-page book of the same name, which is set to arrive in December.

Investigating Colombo’s “relationship with her higher self”, the exhibition is a vibrant ode to colour and the nude, spanning photography, painting, print, mixed media and sculpture, and including more than 77 original prints, bronze and stone sculptures, lighting, furniture and installation art. When asked how working on this body of work has felt in comparison to making fashion imagery, Colombo simply responded, “Free.”

Here, speaking in her own words, the artist shares the story of her inaugural exhibition and book:

“The book is a labour of love, light, colour, shape and form. It is a compilation of streams of consciousness, and an alignment of self – a nurturing of self – even through the exploration of my body ... I really channeled whatever came to me and as a result there are even written poems. 

“It happened so organically. I finally had some time to be and to allow space to create. So I started creating new work on a daily basis and it soon evolved into a near 600-page book of all new and unseen artwork.

“I never wanted to set myself any limitations. I was drawn to certain mediums at different times throughout the entire creation of this body of work. I was tapping into colour from an array of new mediums, especially with the drawing, splashes of colour, anything that jumped at me really. It was a true moment to try anything and everything that came to mind. I loved the process of adapting these new mediums to my intuitive understanding of colour – harnessing it in different ways whilst exploring its power, energy and gravitational pull.

“The interesting thing about colour is that it can guide emotions in so many different ways: it can either amplify an emotion or maintain an emotion. The beauty of it is that the relationship with colour and emotion is forever changing.

“I am attracted to [colour’s] vibration and energy, the frequency that it gives off and has, or holds. It allows a deeper expression. Colour is the living touchstone of reality. Everything that we see and experience is made up of a spectrum of colours – it’s how we relate to the world and ourselves. As such, it is a pivotal component of my artistic and photographic expression. It is how I render my relationship to subject and self. 

“[My hopes for the book are] for people to organically connect and relate to the various elements of self and colour. It is an invitation for people to explore their own relationships with body, personal power, light and most importantly a connection to higher consciousness.”

Colours of My Body is now showing at SPACEBY in Cape Town and Terminal 27 in Los Angeles.