Leo Robba is an accomplished designer, academic and artist with extensive experience in the design industry; as an academic teacher and researcher; and as a practicing artist. Since graduating from the Queensland College of Art and moving to Sydney he has held over thirty-five solo art exhibitions in Australia and New Zealand and has taken part in numerous group exhibitions both here and internationally. Leo has a MPhil (Fine Art) from Newcastle University exploring the topic Regionalism in Australian Landscape Painting and a PhD from ANU, Canberra, on the topic The Artist’s Garden: Reshaping the Landscape.
In 2009, after an extensive career as an Art Director and Graphic Designer in the media, including ten years at Fairfax Media, Leo left to devote time to his PhD research and further his career as a design academic and artist. He has worked for Fairfax Media on publications including The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and the Canberra Times and at Australian Consolidated Press where he was Creative Director of The Bulletin magazine and Australian Business Magazine. He has also written for the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, The Canberra Times and Artist Profile Magazine and has curated many exhibitions featuring landscape painting.
While at The Sydney Morning Herald, Leo was responsible for design work across all sections of the newspaper and was instrumental in establishing the SMH Art Service, which is an online business selling limited edition digital reproductions by some of Australia’s most renowned artists. This business last year achieved revenues in excess of $1.8M and is on target to reach $2M this financial year. SMH Art Service was the model for what is now known as The Store.
In 2007, Leo organised an expedition to the Flinders Ranges and curated a major touring exhibition of paintings and drawings based on the trip at the SH Ervin Gallery in Sydney, the results of which were featured in a documentary aired on ABC TV. He has also led numerous art trips to destinations such as Tasmania’s Cradle Mountain; West MacDonnell Ranges; Kakadu, NT and Gallipoli in Turkey.
Between 2009 and 2011, he was a regular guest on ABC radio’s 702 Mornings, discussing art and during this time was the Curator of the highly successful Taronga Zoo Artist in Residence program. Taronga AIR raised $350k for valuable scientific research into Tasmanian Devil tumors and the highly endangered Black Rhino breeding program.
In 2010, Leo designed and produced a groundbreaking art project entitled Sydney’s Contested Landscapes. Launched at Art and About Sydney in September of that year, this pop up gallery combined art with science to explore the information, ideas and politics that lie behind the competing interests of water, land usage, housing development, infrastructure, food production and the natural environment. Well-known artists and scientists from the CSIRO and the Australian National University collaborated to highlight the need to rethink the way we live, redesign our cities and put a greater emphasis on the development of more sustainable, healthier cities. In August 2017 Leo produced as part of Riverfest 2017, The Painted River: Art Meets Science which is a public painting event that seeks to explore, through artmaking, a new and more sustainable future for the Parramatta and its tributaries.
He currently lectures (including unit coordination, tutoring and marking) at Western Sydney University in Visual Communications, Design, in the following units: Graphic Design: The Professional Context; Social Design; Researching the Visual; and Design Histories and Futures. He continues to consult regularly to Fairfax Media, and is working on various projects with Professor Anthony Capon, Sydney University and Blue Mountains City Council on the subject of Planetary Health and is a member of the BMCC Cultural Advisory Committee.
His artwork is represented in many private and public collections, including, Parliament House, Canberra, Queensland University of Technology, Maitland Regional Gallery, Brisbane City Hall Gallery, New England Region Art Gallery and Museum, Coffs Harbour Regional Gallery, The University of Newcastle and Bundanon Collection. His paintings are represented by King Street Gallery on William, Sydney and Bowen Galleries, NZ.