Mark Leach (1952 – 2008) was a leading figure in the world of contemporary pastel painting, with many prizes and publications to his name. Since his untimely death in 2008 his work has become increasingly precious, sought out by private collectors worldwide and coveted by those lucky enough to own one already.
The use of pure pigment for pictorial communication dates back to the earliest forms of human language, says Leach in his book ‘Raw Colour with Pastels’. Derived almost entirely from natural sources, the purity of pastels makes it a rather unique medium – unaffected by binders, as usually found in liquid paints, pastels remain true to their original colour without altering or drying after application. Fashionable in the eighteenth century, in particular with portrait painting, pastel has been popularized by famous names such as Éduoard Manet, Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, James Whisler and more recently in the twentieth century by Mary Cassatt and Dame Paula Rego, displaying the strength and vibrancy of this wonderfully versatile medium.
The driving force behind Leach’s practice was an astute understanding of colour, with which he would harness emotions and capture the spirit of particular locations. Leach would often limit his tonal range within the set boundaries of bold primary colours, the palpable presence of colour designed to enhance particular moods. Each painting was harmoniously balanced with minimalistic calm and simplified representation of form. His passion for pastel painting saw an innate connection with the natural world around him; he noted that pastels are not colours that imitate nature – they are nature, allowing one to extract the visual essence of a sensory experience through this direct and archaic medium. Leach is largely recognized for his contemporary landscapes but his practice also incorporated still life studies, architectural scenes and abstracted forms.
Leach was voted President elect of the Pastel Society in 2008 but he died tragically early before his residency began. He is the author of Raw Colour with Pastels, published by Batsford in 2006 and again in paperback 2009.