From sharing her early Photoshop creations on Instagram as a teenager to contributing to the installation of some of Western Sydney's iconic public artworks, Leyla Oz has emerged as a prominent artist whose practice is dedicated to enhancing public spaces through the creation of high-quality architectural artworks. The 2023 recipient of The WEST Journal’s Western Sydney Artist Award for HIDDEN Rookwood Sculptures, Leyla is deeply invested in shaping the future of Western Sydney, actively participating in the ongoing transformations within the region.
“My practice tries to enrich public spaces focusing in on Western Sydney with high-quality public art pieces that engage with either culture or visual tricks and illusions about how we as people understand our senses,” Leyla told WEST when we had the chance to sit down and chat about her artistic vision.
Leyla's artistic journey began during her school years in Western Sydney when she participated in her school’s art classes and programs. Enraptured by creativity and the excitement of making something of her own, Leyla shared her Photoshop creations with her peers online throughout high school. She then studied architecture and continued designing works for others.
“I want to prove to everyone that we can do it. We can be from Western Sydney, you can be from Liverpool. I grew up on a street with housing commission, and we can make it.”
Today Leyla has her own studio and creates art that is underpinned by her wish to engage the viewer within the work. Her art often takes the form of kinetic pieces that interact with the environment, move in the wind and never look the same for each person. In much of her design, Leyla draws inspiration from her Western Sydney roots and Islamic faith, incorporating elements of her own culture into works displayed in the areas they reference.
Her award-winning piece for HIDDEN Rookwood Sculptures 2023, Kefen – Nothing but a few pieces of cloth, reflects on the Islamic burial tradition, emphasising minimalism in the practice where the deceased is buried with only five pieces of cloth. Leyla's works invite viewers to engage with movement, memory, and self-reflection. A perfect reference to showcase at the sculpture event held in Rookwood Cemetery – the largest and most culturally diverse cemetery in the Southern Hemisphere.
Her permanent installations Whisper in St Mary's, Orbit in Globe Lane Wollongong and Chandelier Lane in Wetherill Park are all examples of the thoughtful way in which Leyla has opened up a public space to welcome memory-making and elevate a space to something beautiful. Leyla recounts instances of witnessing children dancing in the reflections of her works, emphasising how her designs create inviting spaces for people to gather.
As an architect, Leyla has worked across Western Sydney in the design space. Yet, it was only during her studies that Leyla fully recognised that quality architecture is an art form that can change the face of the region.
“I realised architecture is a lot more heavily tied with art than I thought it was”, she says, “I like to reference the space that the artwork is supposed to be in.”
For Leyla, her ambition continues and extends beyond the creation of quality works. She is passionate about educating the next generation of artists and architects in Western Sydney. Working as an educator in architecture at Western Sydney University, Leyla knows she is inspiring others to take pride in their area through their own practices and career development.
"I tell the students, you are the future designers of Western Sydney, and the spaces should reflect the essence of the area they are intended for.”
This commitment aligns seamlessly with the ethos of HIDDEN and of WEST. Through our research at WEST, we are constantly meeting the artists behind the colourful, creative, and thoughtful public spaces that span such a diverse region.
It’s truly worth celebrating and supporting artists like Leyla Oz, and HIDDEN Rookwood Sculptures is an excellent example of a public event that elevates the region’s creativity. It is a privilege to be a part of such an important movement in Western Sydney art and to have met with Leyla Oz. Congrats from us!