Friday, July 25, 2014

Studio visitors

This week has been an especially busy one, which began with a real treat. On Monday morning, July 21, Gillian Nix and her colleague Marion brought along their Year 11 printmaking students from Huntingtower School, Melbourne for a visit. We have had very few visitors to our relatively new studio in Ballarat; I very much enjoyed meeting everyone, sharing a selection of recent and current work and talking a little about the ideas and influences that direct it.

I was delighted that the students also brought along their work books. It was a privilege to hear about their own ideas, see them expressed through their research and exciting to see the linocuts that resulted from this. I'm really looking forward to seeing what they come up with next.

Some of my recent works on paper and current lino blocks, along with a selection of reference books.  Photograph by Marion.
Gillian (third from left) Marion (second from right) and their talented Year 11 Printmaking Students

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

SHOW TIME: The Art Collection of Arts Centre Melbourne

This exhibition spotlights Arts Centre Melbourne's nationally significant art collection. The creative intersections between contemporary art and performance are explored in recent works of art inspired by dance, music, opera, theatre and circus. Artists include: Charles Blackman, Inge King, Colin Lanceley, John Olsen, Jon Campbell, Robert Jacks, Vernon Ah Kee, Robert Owen, Wendy Sharpe, Charles Blackman, Inge King, Colin Lanceley, John Olsen and many others.

The exhibition also showcases some of the portraits and personalities represented in Arts Centre Melbourne’s collections. Celebrated performers include opera diva, Dame Nellie Melba; visionary ballet founder, Edouard Borovansky, and dancer, Marilyn Jones; theatrical maestro, Barry Humphries; and singer-songwriter, Nick Cave. 

My linocut See the Lady Sawn in Half! shares a long wall - a kind of sideshow alley - with some marvellous works by Fred Williams, Anne Zahalka, Polixeni Papapetrou - and, to my immense delight, Australia's legendary illusionist The Great Levante.

 Deborah Klein, See the Lady Sawn in Half! 1996, linocut, diptych: 61.5 x 44.5 cm (each panel) 
and The Great Levante theatrical poster. 

Since my early childhood the performing arts in every shape and form have been constant sources of inspiration; some of my heroes are represented in this show. Over the years I've been to countless productions at the Arts Centre (in fact, just last night Shane and I attended Victorian Opera's stunning production of Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods). I’ve also delighted in the many and varied exhibitions presented there. I’m still pinching myself in disbelief that my linocut is part of this one. Never before has a work of mine seemed so completely at home.

SHOW TIME, Gallery 1, The Arts Centre, St Kilda Road, Melbourne opened on 12 July and runs until 21 September.


Last weekend’s highlight was unquestionably the launch of PAGE.PRINT.POST. 50 Years of Artist Books at The Post Office Gallery, Federation University-Australia in Ballarat. The exhibition, which is curated by Debbie Hill and Geoff Wallis, is a must-see for book art enthusiasts on any level. For more about PAGE.PRINT.POST. visit Moth Woman Press HERE and HERE.

L-R: Geoff Wallis, Co-curator of PAGE.PRINT.POST. and David Dellafiora, Co-founder Field Study International, who
launched the exhibition

PAGE. PRINT.POST. curators Debbie Hill and Geoff Wallis

From left: Deborah Klein, Gaye Britt and Tim Gresham

Book artists extraordinaire: Louise Jennison and Gracia Haby

Installation view, including (on far left) five of my books from the Tall Tales series, and book art by Nicholas Jones,
Angela Cavalieri and Gracia and Louise 

Installation view with Shane Jones, Tim Gresham, Geoff Wallis, Gaye Britt and others

PAGE.PRINT.POST. 50 Years of Artist Books
Post Office Gallery
Federation University Australia
Corner Sturt and Lydiard Streets 
Ballarat Vic 3350
Hours: Wednesday - Saturday 1 - 4 pm

The exhibition runs until August 19.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The transmutation of a Ladybird Woman

Deborah Klein, Ladybird Woman, 2014, watercolour, 41.91 x 29.72 cm

Friday, July 4, 2014

The way opens

Since returning from the UK most of my studio time has been taken with finishing or continuing existing projects. I now realise this was fine, because at least I was able to retain a vital connection with the work as I considered its future direction. Once in a while I reach a major crossroads. This has been one of those times, however I don't ever recall feeling such degrees of anxiety and uncertainty about which way to proceed. I haven't been experiencing an artist block; rather I've been faced with the conundrum of having too many potential paths from which to choose. Pursuing all of them would require at least six clones of me and could also result in fragmentary, scattered imagery, rather than a strong, cohesive body of work. Finally, I had an extended brainstorming session in the studio, which basically involved setting out many of the dozens of references I've accumulated over the past several years. For the first couple of days the studio looked like a bomb site. I took heart from the title of one of the books, which I hoped would be prophetic: The Way Opens.

From chaos, which I can tolerate for just so long, came the decision that for now I will pick up some of the threads from the Myth-entomology series. Although I'm still locked into several printmaking projects (including the artist book Homo-insecta, recently shortlisted for the Fremantle Arts Centre Print Award) I will concentrate on developing the watercolours that began life with the tiny Cabinet of Insect Women, 2012. It had always been my intention to gradually increase the scale of the homo-insecta watercolours with a view to extend the work technically and conceptually. 

A Cabinet of Insect Women, 2012, miniature plan cabinet with 30 watercolours on Khadi paper, each 10.5 x 7.5 cm. 
Installation view, Maroondah Art Gallery, 2013. Photograph: Tim Gresham

Fierce storms were raging as I laboured to breathe colour and life into the first of these, Catoxantha opulenta beetle woman. I couldn't help but recall the eponymous doctor in the film version of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (d. James Whale, 1931) who brings his own composite creature to life during a thunderstorm. 

Work in progress: Catoxantha opulenta beetle woman, 2014, 
watercolour (detail)

As noted in my previous post, the natural history illustrations of Maria Sybilla Merian are a key influence - even more so since recently studying her work in the British Museum. The vibrant colours and rich, painterly surfaces of her watercolours on vellum particularly struck me - doubtless a reflection of the exotic Surinamese flora and fauna that were the subjects of her most renowned works. Even as I wielded my brush, I was increasingly aware of how much seeing her work in the flesh has emboldened my watercolour technique.

Work in progress: Catoxantha opulenta beetle woman, 2014, 
watercolour, 41.91 x 29.72 cm

I worked in part from one of the insect specimens I acquired earlier this year at Melbourne Museum. The working drawing directly below it is one of several I made when mapping out ideas for the linocut I produced as special guest artist at the Australian Print Workshop back in January. 

Catocantha opulenta specimen

All of this makes me suspect I was already on my chosen path and had merely wandered from it. 

Completed Catoxantha opulenta beetle woman, 2014, 
watercolour, 41.91 x 29.72 cm

Friday, June 27, 2014

From the British Museum to Ballarat: Maria Sibylla Merian and me

Maria Sibylla Merian, c 1700, copperplate by Jacobus Houbraken from a portrait by Georg Gsell

During our visit to London in April, Shane and I spent two memorable afternoons in the Prints and Drawings Room of the British Museum. My primary aim was to view works by the artist-naturalist Maria Sibylla Merian (1647-1717) including her album of 91 drawings entitled Merian's Drawings of Surinam Insects. Having this magnificent volume entirely to ourselves to study in depth - and tranquility - was an experience I will never forget.

Among the album's standouts were the Common or Spectacled Caiman and South American False Coral Snake, and Pineapple (with examples of a caterpillar, chrysalises, two butterflies and a beetle). Both works are pictured directly below.

On the second day we also perused selected works on paper by Hans Holbein, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Eric Gill and Edgar Degas. Despite undergoing extensive construction work, the Prints and Drawing Room was a peaceful haven compared to many of the main galleries of the BM. Every time we entered the building it sounded like a football match was in full swing. On our way to the Prints and Drawings Department, we gingerly navigated a path through hoards of rowdy visitors mindlessly snapping selfies in front of mummy cases. 
Shane pores over a folio of drawings by Edgar Degas.

Considerably less hectic was the Enlightenment Room, which resembles an elaborate Cabinet of Curiosities. It’s an enchanting world completely unto itself and is unquestionably one of my favourite rooms in the British Musum. On display was an album of watercolours by Maria Sibylla Merian. Sadly, I’m not in a position to call in every three months when one of its pages is turned.

It’s going to take awhile to process all that I saw and experienced in the UK, particularly in regard to its possible impact on my work. But as I tentatively begin a new watercolour in the Ballarat studio, I'm already wishing I could magically transport myself back to London to see those Maria Sybilla Merian watercolours again.

Directly below: early stages of Catoxantha opulenta beetle woman, 2014, watercolour on A3 Khadi paper.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Seventh Skin

Deborah Klein, Anon, 1998, Linocut (ed.14/55) 57.5 x 38 cm 
Banyule Art Collection. Acquired 1998

My linocut Anon, 1998, is part of the exhibition Seventh Skin, which opens on 18 June. Its premise parallels that which has long underpinned much of my own work:

Feeling ‘comfortable in one’s own skin’ is an expression that has multiple meanings in today’s age. This exhibition asks ‘Just how many layers do we present through our public face to the world?’ and ‘Exactly what is real and what is disguised or concealed?’

- Claire Watson, Curator, Seventh Skin

Watson examines this complex theme through a diverse range of works, encompassing photography, printmaking, video, jewellery and sculpture.

The exhibition includes artworks from the Banyule Art Collection by:
Pat Brassington, Lyndell Brown /Charles Green, Jazmina Cininas, Shaun Gladwell, Rona Green, Clare Humphries, Deborah Klein, Yuri Kawanabe, Christian Thompson and Anne Zahalka.

And works by:

Roseanne Bartley, Eric Bridgeman, Cate Consandine, Troy Emery, Kate James, Claire McArdle, Polixeni Papapetrou, Deborah Paauwe, Hannah Raisin, Tania Smith, Jacqui Stockdale and Hiromi Tango.
To learn more about Anon and the context in which it was created, click HERE.
Seventh Skin opens on 18 June and runs until 2 August.
The opening event is on Thursday 26 June, 6-8 pm.
Councilor Craig Landon, Mayor of Banyule Council and Associate Professor Robert Nelson, Monash University will launch the exhibition.
Seventh Skin
14 Ivanhoe Parade
Ivanhoe Vic 3079
Tel: (03) 9457 9851
Hours: Tues-Sat, 10am-5pm

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Judging the Biblio Art Award, an Artist Talk and the Dachshund Dash

From left: Self with Sarah Gubby and former Biblio Judge, artist David Frazer

I’ve just returned from three days of sampling the varied delights of this year’s first Winter Weekend at Port Fairy in South-western Victoria. Jo Canham, Director of Blarney Books and Art had invited me to co-judge one of its main events: the 6th Biblio Art Awards. My fellow judge was local artist Essie Warmuth.

Essie and I were overwhelmed by the sheer diversity and inventiveness of many of the entries, which made singling out a single work as Grand Prize winner that much more challenging. In the end, however, we chose the artist book What Katy Did, by Avril Makula.

Other award winners were Polyanna Guthrie (Youth Award) Helen Fitzhardinge (Storytellers Award) Anne-Maree Hunter (3D award – sponsored by Bluestone Magazine). Nine-year-old twins Tom and Darcy Lynch also received an encouragement award for their entry.

To learn about Biblio, visit Blarney Books and Art and Bluestone Magazine.

For more about Avril Makula’s prize-winning entry, What Katy Did, visit Moth Woman Press.

The Prize Winners were announced on Saturday evening at the lively, crowded opening of Biblio.

On the following day at 3 pm I gave an artist talk at Blarney Books and Art. We had a full house - and what a wonderfully warm, attentive and enthusiastic audience they were.

Artist talk at Blarney Books and Art. Blarney Books Director Jo Canham is on the far right.

After the talk I enjoyed chatting with my fellow Biblio judge, her partner Susan, and some of the audience members

Over the course of the long weekend I met some terrific people, caught up with several old friends and saw some stunning book art.

Somehow we also found time for sightseeing. We also managed to catch Winter Weekend's only sporting event: the thrilling Dachshund Dash, which was enormous fun (see directly below). Our old friends Jazmina and Jonas entered their dog Trouble in the Mixed Breeds race. There was no doubting Trouble's enthusiasm, but unfortunately he ran in the wrong direction - several, in fact. 

And they're off! The Dachshund Dash
Jazmina and Jonas put on brave faces following Trouble's doomed effort in the Mixed Breeds race
To the lightouse: DK at Port Fairy's most famous landmark
Shane admires the magnificent Port Fairy Lightouse

Thursday, June 5, 2014

the drawn word

During their making you can see the strength of the relationship that exists between writing and drawing through the ease with which a trained hand will freely move between the two. That is, I suspect, because both are part of our literacy, both are tools of representation and both designed as methods of managing multidimensional matter. What separate them are alphabets, dictionaries and the way they are read.

Stephen Farthing, 26 June 2013

Last Saturday afternoon Shane and I attended the opening of a superb exhibition by painters Craig Gough and Wendy Stavrianos at Langford 120 gallery.

It was also the occasion for the Australian launch of the drawn word. The publication's primary aim is to delineate the relationship between writing and drawing, expanding upon ideas originally presented at the third Drawing Out conference, University of the Arts, London in 2012. It is divided into key sections: Definition, Transmission, Application and Representation. My drawing Tattooed Text, 2012 is one of the illustrations that responds to the fifth and final chapter, All Writing is Drawing by Irene Barberis and Janet McKenzie. The artist statement that originally accompanied my drawing is quoted in the book. To read it, click HERE.

the drawn word was edited by Professor Stephen Farthing, RA and Dr Janet McKenzie and is published by Studio International and The Studio Trust, New York, NY, USA (2014).

Image left: Deborah Klein, Tattooed Texts, 2012, pencil; image right: Marian Leven: The Space of Writing, what is that? 2012, watercolour

Dr Irene Barberis. In the background to her right (in blue sweater) is Craig Gough. The painting far right is by Craig.

Background: Painting by Craig Gough; foreground: Cresside Collette and Shane Jones