LEILI - Leili Tehrani Walker


Leili is a Melbourne-based artist who works across painting, digital media, and tapestry. Growing up in Sydney’s Kings Cross and inspired by their ancestral roots in Shiraz, Leili’s art dives into themes of identity and self-discovery. Their work encourages viewers to explore their own sense of self through vibrant colours, altered perspectives, and symbols. 

How do you typically find inspiration for your work?

Consumption! I consume constantly - art books are the single greatest drain on my bank account. Old photographs, pictures taken by myself or family and friends. I’m constantly collecting talismans, artefacts, memories, objects and scenes in my sketchbook that are later transfigured into something to be painted. For the elements to come together I have to take a week or so off of all inputs - no podcasts, movies, tv shows, books, articles - and then my brain quietens enough for something good to spring forth.

What has influenced your personal artistic style?

I was raised on a healthy diet of Jean Giraud (Moebius) and Jodorowsky and both heavily influence my use of colour. I became obsessed with replicating the skyscapes in The Incal. I guess it would be neat to say much of the geometry in my work comes from my interest in maths, I think more likely it comes from Iranian architecture in which geometry is used as an expression of the divine. I’ve heard my work referred to as illustrative, almost pop in its use of colour, and whilst I’m not inclined to identify with either of those categories I can see that the elements of my style come together to form a sort of marriage of Western stylistic traditions, Islamic geometry and Zoroastrian symbolism.

What does ‘The Future’s Our Creation’’ mean to you?

I guess I’m so in awe of the younger generation and how well they seem to know themselves, how quick they are to fight for change, and how unwilling to accept injustice. I think there’s hope for the future if we give the keys to young people, and I wanted the artwork to reflect that. I wanted to celebrate the unity and solidarity we’re seeing in movements to effect change. Particularly I wanted to push against nihilism and celebrate the way young people are pushing for a world we can be proud of.

Were there any specific design choices or artistic elements that you felt really got the message across?

It’s all a call back to the optimism of the late 90s and early 2000s, lots of nature and plants, frutiger-aero style. There are some mycelium networks in the background as a nod to biotechnology and the intelligence of the natural world. The plants and greenery are a call to listen to the land and its owners, that to understand and care for the earth we have to give over to nature. I included some Girih (Islamic Geometry) to reference the Sublime, the beauty of the universe. You’ll see a mythical bird in there, Simurgh, referencing the ancient myth of the birds on a journey to find God. At the end of their journey they meet Simurgh who is in fact the sum of the birds, an allegory for the power of unity, for the ultimate one-ness of all things. And a Sun is in there as a giver of life, breathing strength into the new day.

Do you have any advice for someone wanting to pursue a career in art?

Forget about making a good artwork, play with your materials, experiment, waste time. Any time I feel disconnected from my practice, like I hate what I’m making or I can’t make anything good, it’s because I’m focusing too much on the end result. Time has to be set aside to mess around aimlessly, just for fun. That’s how you get to know your materials, get to know yourself.

Ask for help! Materials are expensive, space to play is expensive, play is time consuming. Art-making isn’t as accessible as it should be. I started out with a flimsy set of watercolours from the dollar store - it was the artists around me who lent me paints to play with, taught me about paper, showed me how to prep and prime a canvas. No gatekeeping here.

Finally, do your morning pages. Brain dump every morning, get over the fear of a blank page. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, get a copy of the Artist’s Way.

How do you want people to feel after viewing your art?

Ugh how I felt reading Moebius for the first time! Freedom in how tiny we are in comparison to the universe! Hope for the future, as though anything is possible, we can create whatever we want, explore alternate realities, build sublime worlds. Like a kid again, curious, uncovering meaning in anything and everything.




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