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Friday, January 20, 2017

Return to Newstead


With the artist book, Leaves of Absence, completed (see previous post) Newstead has been very much on my mind of late. At this time of year, our friends Leigh Hobbs and Dmetri Kakmi are usually house sitting there, but this time it's not the case (I believe the owners of the house are currently in residence). It was on a walk with Dmetri and Leigh in the winter of 2015 that I collected the first leaves for what became Leaves of Absence. Some months later, on the back verandah of that very same house, they were the first people I showed the initial trial proofs to.


The pull to Newstead has been strong, and last Sunday we finally made it back there. It was in a sense a sentimental journey. I must admit to being a little sad that Leigh and Dmetri weren't there when the first phase of an endeavour that has become such a big part of my life (as they are also) came full circle.


My partner, Shane Jones, has been a tower of support throughout the highs and lows of the project. Shane is pictured below, looking for all the world like a figure from a painting by Caspar David Friedrich.


I trust that these photos will convey something of Newstead's unspoiled, tranquil beauty, which for me is combined with more than a touch of magic. I'm especially eager to share them with my faraway friend, Arizona-based iPad artist, Deborah McMillion. In taking on this project, I found myself as far away from my comfort zone as we are from each other. Her insights, advice and support have been invaluable; without her input, the project wouldn't have evolved in the myriad unexpected ways that it has.



I took advantage of the visit to collect additional leaves and to search for Amorbus alternatus nymphs, the enchanting insects that populate the eucalyptus saplings in Newstead. Although they are regarded as minor pests, it is they that refine and shape the leaves I use in my images.





There were not as many Eucalyptus tip bugs as on previous visits. I've since discovered that they are most prevalent on hot days (Sunday was bearably warm, compared to the scorcher of a day we first came upon them just over twelve months ago). Most of the nymphs we found were quite small, but exquisite nonetheless.



I also uncovered a colourful egg of an unknown creature:


I'm guessing it contains an insect just like the one in the following two images:


Research as to its identity will most certainly follow.


In the underbrush a butterfly (a Wanderer, I believe) rested.


I also discovered this splendid caterpillar. Again, I've no idea of its identity, although its colours recall those of the Amorbus alternus nymphs.



Directly below, it may look as if I'm photographing an empty leaf, but in fact my camera is focused on a tiny spider, camouflaged so successfully as to render it virtually invisible on the leaf's surface. Only the spider's shadow betrays its presence.

(The carrier bag hanging from my wrist contains my latest haul of leaf specimens, now pressed and drying in the Ballarat studio).


Subsequent research has revealed it to be a Flower Spider.


There were also more Eucalyptus tip bug nymphs:





What better way to end our fruitful visit to Newstead on a warm day than with a cold beer?



Thank you, Newstead and goodbye - until next time.

For more about our visit to Newstead, visit Moth Woman Press HERE.

Friday, January 13, 2017

A Gold Letter Day

Leaves of Absence (closed). Linen box with gold debossed text and image,
32.5 (H) x 25.5 (W) x 4 cm (D). Edition: 10, plus 1 artist proof

Yesterday was a red letter day, or rather a gold letter day. The boxes for the artist book, Leaves of Absence, were completed, marking the final stage of this almost two-year long project. Leaves of Absence is a limited edition of 10, plus one artist proof.

The closed book is pictured above, followed directly below by selected page views. To preview additional pages, visit Moth Woman Press HERE.






Sunday, January 8, 2017

'The artist's hand' in the artist's hand

The artist's hand, 2017, mini-zine, 10 x 7.5 cm, edition: 100

What with the artist book Leaves of Absence nearing completion, two more artist’s books on the go and three zines in various stages of completion, Moth Woman Press is a hive of fevered activity. But I think I have the situation in hand.

Pictured above: The artist’s hand, an eight-page mini-zine, one of three new MWP zines to be unveiled at the Festival of the Photocopier zine fair (FOTP 2017) on February 12. For further information and page views, visit our sister blog, Moth Woman Press, HERE.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

A new year and a new leaf of a new book

Leaves of Absence pages, together with a fragment of the linen with which
the book's specially designed box will be bound  

The first few months of 2017 are dominated by book-related projects, so naturally this is reflected in my current studio practice. Pictured above is a progress view of Leaves of Absence, an unbound, limited edition artist book that has been two years in the making. The boxes that will house the book are currently under construction. They will be covered with the same linen as the sample upon which the pages rest. The completed book will be limited to an edition of 10, plus one artist proof.

For additional page views and information, visit Moth Woman Press HERE.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Gloria Steinem

L-R: Gloria Steinem and Virginia Trioli on stage at Melbourne Town Hall, 16 May, 2016

2016 has certainly been a year of extreme contrasts and, speaking personally, it was another exceedingly busy one in the studio. So much so, in fact, that there were some items I simply didn’t have time to post when they were still current. Frustratingly, that included one of this year’s high points. At the end of most years (or sometimes at the start of the new one) I've selected personal highlights from the past twelve months. This time I've decided to concentrate solely on this one.

It’s not too often one gets to see a lifelong hero in the flesh, however, it happened to me on 16 May, 2016, when I was among the audience at Melbourne Town Hall to witness Gloria Steinem being interviewed by Melbourne journalist, Virginia Trioli.

As the seating wasn't numbered, I decided to turn up early in order to secure a place near the front of the queue; hopefully this would in turn lead to a good seat. The event had received relatively little publicity, but when I arrived at the Town Hall entrance in Swanston Street, the queue was already leading around the corner. I joined it there, and before long it had snaked on up Collins Street, as far as the eye could see. Once inside the town hall, I was dismayed to see that entire rows of the best seats, including those in the front row, had been reserved. I consoled myself with a position several rows back on the far right of the hall that was far from ideal, but could have been a lot worse. Minutes before the interview commenced, however, many of the reserved signs were removed. Moving quickly, I found myself front row centre, from where the photographs in this post were taken. I had to keep pinching myself at my good fortune, especially since in the end there wasn’t an empty seat in the house.

Narrowing the dozens of photos I took to the handful posted here was a considerable challenge

At the time, Steinem had just released her autobiographical book, My Life on the Road. (A signed copy of the book was included with our tickets). Prompted by Trioli, she talked about her life, beginning with her early years, gravitating to her activism for women's rights, a cause she has devoted her life to. She spoke of how much has been gained, but also the ground we have lost and how much further we still have to go. And this was before the 2016 US election! 

Steinem stood to take a well deserved bow at the evening's end; she received a standing ovation 

The evening is well summarised HERE.

Thank you, Readings Books, for making the evening possible and thank you, Gloria Steinem, for, well, just about everything.

Wishing everyone the very best for 2017. 

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Dreaming of a Cool Yule


Unless I relocate to the northern hemisphere, it seems my fantasy of a white Christmas will always come to nought. But you can't stop me from dreaming, even on this most humid of Australian Christmas Eves.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to friends old and new, near and far. I do hope you'll drop by again in 2017.

Detail of our Melbourne Christmas tree 

Friday, December 23, 2016

THE GIFT OF THE MAGI

Victorian hair jewellery, L-R: bracelet, brooch and watch fob. Collection: Deborah Klein

With Christmas Day nearly upon us, and New Year's Day following closely behind, planning for several projects in 2017 is already well under way. One of these is From the Bower - patterns of collecting, an exhibition focusing on the collections of four artists, namely Carole WilsonLouise Saxton, Loris Button and myself

The following excerpt is from our our combined artists' statement:

Each of us connects with or interrogates our collection in myriad ways, at both a subtle level and more literally. For some of us, the material and objects collected form the very fabric of our art, whilst for others it is a source of inspiration and imagery.  We source our objects from opportunity shops, junk shops, garage sales and markets, both at home and while travelling. Andre Breton said of flea markets "… I go there often, searching for objects that can be found nowhere else, old fashioned, broken, useless...” (1) We can also add: objects that are disused, discarded and even disinherited.  Opportunity shops and flea markets are in a way a kind of ‘bower’ where objects are gathered, and which reflect the lives of many other people.

Among my own contributions to the show are a substantial collection of hair ornaments and a small collection of Victorian hair jewellery (pictured above). Gathered together, the objects put me in mind of a story I've loved since childhood, The Gift of the Magi (1905) by the American writer, O. Henry. Hair, decorative combs and a watch fob are central to this, one of his most beloved tales, which unfolds over another Christmastime, long agoTo read The Gift of the Magi, go HERETo learn about O. Henry and read more of his stories, go HERE.

FROM THE BOWER - Patterns of collecting can be seen at Warrnambool Art Gallery from 18 March - 12 June, 2017. 

It then travels to the Art Gallery of Ballarat, where it will run from 29 July - 17 September, 2017. 

Full details will be posted nearer the times.



[1] Plant, M, “Shopping for the Marvelous: Life of the City of Surrealism” in Surrealism: Revolution by Night, Canberra: National Gallery of Australia, 1993.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

APW ARTIST PARTY


On Friday evening, 9 December, the Australian Print Workshop held an artist party to thank the artists who contributed to its biennial fundraiser, IMPRESSIONS 2016.

Like many of the people I spoke to that night, Shane and I look forward to the event as a rare opportunity to catch up with old friends from whom we are increasingly separated by time (or rather, lack thereof) and distance.

Pictured above, L-R are: Richard Harding, Shane Jones, Lesley Duxbury and Catherine Pilgrim. Richard and Lesley are former colleagues from my teaching days in the Printmaking Department at RMIT University - and very happy days they were too.

I first met Catherine in the 1990s when we both used the presses in the APW's access workshop. In 2002, Catherine, Shane and I joined forces for the touring exhibition, Common Thread, which also left many happy memories in its wake.

Pictured below L-R: a slight regrouping, comprising myself, Richard, Lesley, Raymond Carter and Catherine. (Photo credit: Shane Jones).


No APW artist's party would be complete without the APW band, the incomparable Press Gang. When they were handing out the talent, these guys obviously stood in line twice - they are also remarkable printmakers and in the cases of Martin, Adrian and Simon, master printers.

Pictured below, L-R: Press Gang vocalist Jazmina Cininas, who, incidentally, can now add lyric-writing to her CV. (She also wrote the catalogue essay for Common Thread.) Behind her is Janice McBride and beside Jazmina, front and centre, is Martin King. Behind Martin is Adrian Kellett (just visible in the background on drums). To the right of Martin is Graeme Drendel and behind him, far right, is Simon White.


When the crowd finally thinned out, I had a chance to take an installation view of just some of the work:


Following is a detail of the installation. I was delighted to see that the edition of my linocut, The odd-numbered plait, has already sold out.


Below is a closeup of the print, as photographed by Tim Gresham:


I look forward to returning to the APW and spending quality time with the works, something that was impossible to do at last Friday's lively gathering. The general consensus is that this is one of the strongest IMPRESSIONS to date. I'm inclined to agree.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

A birthday break in Queenscliff

Deborah Klein, A Man, a Woman and a Duck, 1996, linocut, 30.5 x 46.5 cm. Photo credit: Tim Gresham 

A week ago it was my birthday and my partner, Shane Jones, treated me to a short break at seaside Queenscliff for some much-needed R&R. We both grew up by the sea, Shane in Mordialloc and me in St. Kilda. Although we now live further inland (our time is currently divided between Abbotsford in inner-city Melbourne and Ballarat in regional Victoria), seaside towns have never lost their magic for either of us.

A Man, a Woman and a Duck, the linocut pictured above, is loosely based on the two of us and the place we once lived. It was made back in 1996 when we shared a Victorian house in Blessington Street, St. Kilda, just minutes from St. Kilda Beach (the street runs directly to the seafront).

The print is currently available at Queenscliff Gallery and Workshop, which, like me, recently had a birthday. It has just turned one year old. Heartiest congratulations to the gallery and its founders, Theo and Soula Mantalvanos. Their sea change was the direct opposite to our journey; they moved from inner city Melbourne (in fact, their former home was not all that far from our place in Abbotsford) to this most picturesque of coastal towns. You can find Queenscliff Gallery and Workshop HERE, although an in-person visit is far more highly recommended.

Shane and I stayed at the Vue Grand Hotel, the largest hotel in Queenscliff and one of the finest examples of high Victorian architecture one could ever expect to see (although it does have several close rivals in the town). The hotel was built in 1881-82 and partly rebuilt after a fire in 1927.

My favourite part of the hotel is its secluded courtyard. We celebrated our arrival on Sunday afternoon with a glass of pink bubbly before heading off to the opening of the exhibition, Place, at Queenscliff Gallery and Workshop.






Based on Theo's recommendation, we dined at Athelstane House, conveniently located diagonally across from our hotel. The food was sensational.



While we were dining there was a short-lived shower. We stepped outside to discover golden rain-washed pavements and the Vue Grand bathed in moonlight:


It wasn't all that late, but the opulent hotel lobby was deserted. It was fun to explore it when no one else was around:



The hotel dining room, snapped the following morning after breakfast:


Afterwards, we walked along the cliffs by the lighthouse:



Then we ventured down to the beach, where Shane wrote a message in the sand (Debois is his nickname for me):


Thanks to Shane, it was one of the happiest ever.