Wednesday, May 27, 2020

A linocut in progress

Following directly from where our post of May 20 left off, here are additional progress views of the linocut that has been consuming a great deal of my time and energy of late.

After transferring the basic outlines of the lace collar onto the block, the remaining details were hand-drawn in white acrylic paint. 

Along the way, my protagonist has lost her set of drop earrings; they have been replaced by loose tendrils of hair. A further addition is the rose tattoo on her neck, apparently extending from the centre stem in her collar. Once the work has been editioned, the rose will be hand-coloured in red.

In the last photo, carving of the intricate lace pattern has just begun.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Begonia Virus #1 and #2

Begonia Virus #1, 2020, acrylic on canvas board, 10 x 10 cm

Begonia Virus #2, 2020, acrylic on canvas board, 10 x 10 cm

Begonia Virus #1 and Begonia Virus #2, pictured above, are part of ONE HUNDRED FACES, an upcoming installation of 100 paintings created by Ballarat-based artists on 10 x 10 cm canvas boards. The collected works will be displayed in a 10 x 10 grid in the front window of Playing in the Attic in Sturt Street, one of Ballarat’s liveliest thoroughfares.

Photographs I took in March 2020 at Ballarat’s renowned Begonia Festival served as visual references for my two paintings. I really enjoyed working on this pair and would have liked to add to them, had time permitted. It’s something I might well consider in the future. 

The works reflect on the interconnectedness of humans and nature and their titles are a playful riff on the relative similarity of the words Begonia and Corona. In the course of some rudimentary investigations, I discovered that there really is a Begonia Virus - and quarantine is one of the recommended means of controlling it!

 is presented in conjunction with the 2020 Ballarat Winter Festival, which runs from 27 June - 12 July. 

Playing in the Attic
119a Sturt Street
Ballarat Vic 3350 
Phone: 0428 580 30

Hours: Wed - Sat 10 - 4. Safety measures are firmly in place.

The installation can be viewed outside of business hours, as it will face directly onto the street. Stepping inside this delightful little store is also highly recommended - and not just because it stocks a range of my books and zines! Despite the gradual easing of restrictions in recent days, it is advised to double-check opening times.

Views of Begonia Virus #1 and Begonia Virus #2 in earlier stages of development are directly below.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Topsy-turvy times

At present it seems I’m either inundated with new ideas, too many to realise in two lifetimes, or frozen helplessly in place like the proverbial deer caught in the headlights. Unfortunately, the latter too often describes my mood.

It doesn’t help that I’ve reached a serious impasse with a project I’m obligated to complete. Rightly or wrongly, I’ve decided to put it aside for now and devote my time, hopefully more productively, to the linocut pictured here. AKA ‘Plan B’, the work revisits, revives and revises significant themes, techniques, motifs and materials. There’s something rather comforting in this, although that doesn’t make the prospect of resolving it any less daunting. I’m no stranger to linocuts, but it’s been awhile since I made one and the process feels equally familiar and strange. I spent most of yesterday developing the pattern for the lace collar my protagonist will wear, an exercise I found challenging but ultimately satisfying. Today’s aim is to transfer my design onto the block. 

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Hopefully ever after

Facing an uncertain future, hopefully ever after.
Each work: acrylic on canvas, 12.4 x 12.4 cm

As yet untitled, these are the first works in a series I’ve reluctantly placed on hold while I continue to work my way through several other projects, some with looming deadlines. In these times of unprecedented upheaval and uncertainty, there’s no guarantee that all of these commitments are going to run as originally scheduled, but at this point, I feel I’ve little choice but to proceed as if they are.

The miniature paintings featured here were made for an exhibition that isn’t going ahead, at least in its original form and time slot. C’est la vie, especially in times of COVID-19. On reflection, I believe the delay is for the best, as it will give me more time to develop the series and the ideas that underpin it.

I very much look forward to returning to this fledgling project, whenever that will be, and seeing where it leads me. Meanwhile, a couple of early developmental views follow, the first of which also features the irrepressible Alice, our boon companion during the long days of life in lockdown.

Friday, May 8, 2020

Studio shelves

We've done so much around the house in the last few months (most notably, hanging over 470 pictures, according to Shane Jones's calculations) that I never got around to posting about the bookshelves the exceedingly clever Shane built in my studio some weeks back. Here they are in all their cluttered glory. 

The shelves are set into a deep alcove that was originally an inbuilt dressing table (see below), so that they not only hold heaps of books, but also double as storage/display for other favourite things, including a tunnel book by Paul Compton (above, top shelf, third from right) and an artist book by Deborah McMillion (above, middle shelf, far right).

The following 'Before' photos document the process:

Thanks to these and the equally impressive shelves Shane has built in his own studio, we've finally been able to get the last of our books out of storage.

Friday, May 1, 2020

2020 Libris Awards finalist

Cat’s Cradle, 2019, acrylic on wood, and pigmented drawing ink on paper, 16.5 x 15.5 x 1.5 cm (closed)

I'm delighted to announce that my one-of-a-kind artist book, Cat's Cradle (2019) is one of sixty finalists in the 2020 Libris Awards at Artspace Mackay in Queensland.

For further information and an inside view of Cat's Cradle, visit Moth Woman Press HERE.

Thursday, April 30, 2020


Pictured above: Covert Covid 12: Self-portrait in Chenuala heliaspis Moth Mask, (1)  the final work in a set of twelve, created in as many days during life in lockdown.

"In the event of an oxygen shortage on airplanes, mothers of young children are always reminded to put on their own oxygen mask first, better to assist the children with theirs. The same tactic is necessary on terra firma. There's no way of sustaining our children if we don't first rescue ourselves. I don't call that selfish behaviour. I call it love".
- Joyce Maynard.

The masks in this series (scroll down to see the previous eleven) were originally conceived in 2010 as a relatively small part of a substantial body of work relating to my feminist fairy tale, The Story of the Moth Masks (2008). Somewhat overlooked at the time, the masks now seem uncannily prescient. Ten years on, they've finally found their proper place, although as yet, there's no fairy tale ending in sight.

(1) Chenuala heliaspis mask, 2010, acrylic on found papier-mâché mask.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020


Covert Covid 11: Self-portrait in Scaptesyle dichotoma Moth Mask (1), the penultimate instalment of a series created in my Covid Cave in Ballarat East over twelve days of life in lockdown.

(1) Scaptesyle dichotoma mask, 2010, acrylic on found papier-mâché mask, de rigueur for social distancing and equally indispensable for the prevention of face-touching.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020


Covert Covid 10: Self-portrait in Agathia pisina Moth Mask (1).

Ballarat East, Tuesday, 28 April, 2020.

(1) Agathia pisina mask, 2010, acrylic on found papier-mâché mask.

Monday, April 27, 2020


Covert Covid 9: Self-portrait in Damiens elegans Moth Mask, (1) ninth in a suite of twelve.

“The human face is, after all, nothing more or less than a mask”
- Agatha Christie.

Ballarat East, Monday, 27 April, 2020.

(1) Damiens elegans mask, 2010, acrylic on found papier-mâché mask.

Sunday, April 26, 2020


Covert Covid 8: Self-portrait in Dysallacta megalopa Moth Mask (1) #8 in a sequence of 12.

Stay home, stay safe.

Ballarat East, Sunday, 26 April, 2020.

(1) Dysallacta megalopa mask, 2010, acrylic on found papier-mâché mask.

Saturday, April 25, 2020


Covert Covid 7: Self-portrait in Amerila timolis Moth Mask, (1) #7 of a twelve-part series.

Ballarat East, Saturday, 25 April, 2020.

(1) Amerila timolis mask, 2010, acrylic on found papier-mâché mask.

Friday, April 24, 2020


Covert Covid 6: Self-portrait in Carthea saturnioides Moth Mask. (1)

"Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth"
- Oscar Wilde.

Ballarat East, Friday, 24 April 2020.

(1) Carthea saturnioides mask, 2010, acrylic on found papier-mâché mask, 2010.

Thursday, April 23, 2020


Covert Covid 5: Self-portrait in Conogethes tharsalea Moth Mask, (1) the fifth in an ongoing series reflecting on social isolation and life in lockdown.

The artist's studio, Ballarat East, Thursday, 23 April 2020.

(1) Conogethes tharsalea mask, 2010, acrylic on found papier-mâché mask.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020


Covert Covid 4: Self-portrait in Uliocnemis partita Moth Mask. (1) Life in lockdown and social isolation on International Mother Earth Day 2020.

The artist's studio, Ballarat East, Wednesday, 22 April, 2020.

(1) Uliocnemis partita mask, 2010, acrylic on found papier-mâché mask.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020


Covert Covid 3: Self-portrait in Dymphania numana Moth Mask. (1)

The artist's studio, Ballarat East, Tuesday, 21 April, 2020.

(1) Dymphania numana mask, 2010, acrylic on found papier-mâché mask.

Monday, April 20, 2020


Covert Covid 2: Self-portrait in Hypsidia robinsoni Moth Mask (1).  

A personal response to social isolation and life in lockdown.

The artist's studio, Ballarat East, Monday, 20 April, 2020.

(1) Hypsidia robinsoni mask, 2010, acrylic on found papier-mâché mask.

Sunday, April 19, 2020


In the latest instalment of its long, complex history, the mask has become emblematic of these troubled times. It seems the moth masks I created several years ago have finally come into their own. A spontaneous photograph, snapped during a recent studio clear up, has inadvertently spawned an ongoing series, COVERT COVID, a personal response to social distancing and life in lockdown.

Pictured top: Covert Covid 1: Self-portrait in Anaxidia lactea Moth Mask. (1)

The artist's studio, Ballarat East, Sunday, 19 April 2020.

(1) Anaxidia lactea mask, 2010, acrylic on found papier-mâché mask.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Until the world is well again

With a tinge of regret, it dawns on me that my solo show at Stephen McLaughlan Gallery was due to open today. Looking on the bright side, however, its postponement will enable me to realise ideas for three additional paintings that wouldn't otherwise have seen the light of day.

The first of these, Maytime, shown in its early stages below, is now close to resolution. 

The pattern on my protagonist's elaborately tattooed back (it was the devil of a thing to paint) is based on a detail from Autumn and Winter, an embroidery by May Morris, a prolific and influential designer and embroiderer whose works are sometimes erroneously attributed to her more famous father, William Morris. There will be more about May Morris in future posts.

Maytime, acrylic on linen, 40.5 x 30.5 cm (progress view)

I've learned a great deal from making this work, particularly in regard to the handling of paint, and have been able to apply some of that knowledge to a couple of earlier works that were sorely in need of fine-tuning. The paintings Snake Tattoo and Rambling Rose were made in the small third bedroom of my former house, which served as a makeshift studio in the lead up to last year's move. The light in there was poor and this translated into the works as a kind of dull airlessness. Their tonal imbalance, painfully obvious in my new well-lit studio, has hopefully been corrected.

In the past few weeks there have been days when I couldn't face going into the studio. The most important lesson I've learned of late is that in a world over which I have no control, being in there is my salvation. The show may not go on - at least, for now - but the work can still continue.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Interview in UNTITLED

Pages 32-33, Untitled, Issue 3, ART GALLERY OF BALLARAT ASSOCIATION, Autumn 2020.
Click on image for a clearer view.

Back in January, Shane and I were interviewed by Amanda McGraw for the Autumn issue of Untitled, the magazine of the Art Gallery of Ballarat Association. A great deal has happened between then and late last week, when we received our copy. The life we once knew has changed beyond recognition. Like museums and galleries world-wide, the Art Gallery of Ballarat has recently closed until further notice and the rest of us are still adjusting to life in lockdown. 

Shane and I thoroughly enjoyed our chat with Amanda. We miss the gallery already and look forward to resuming our visits in happier times. Until then, we'll content ourselves with virtual visits via the AGB website HERE
The transcript of our interview in Untitled is below.

In the Gallery with Deborah Klein and Shane Jones
Interview by Amanda McGraw
21 January 2020

Amanda: Let’s talk about your connection to Ballarat and to the Art Gallery.
Shane: We were half-Ballarat and half-Melbourne for about 10 years. Recently we bought an Art Deco house together in Ballarat, so we’re now permanent Ballaratians. It was like a chapter in a book. We knew our time in Melbourne was over.
Deborah: We found ourselves starting to spend more time here. The development going on in Melbourne was making the city unrecognisable. Ballarat has everything we love. It’s got a great cinema – we both love film – and the Art Gallery of Ballarat has a superb collection. My connection with the Gallery started at art school in the early 1980s. After graduation I worked at the Print Council of Australia, then located in a basement in Collins Street. One day a man came down the stairs and we started talking. His name was Roger Butler and it was only after he left that I realised he had written the catalogue for Melbourne woodcuts and linocuts of the 1920s and 1930s, published in 1981 by the Art Gallery of Ballarat, which was my bible. I taught myself relief printmaking from it because at art school linocutting wasn’t considered sophisticated enough and we received very little instruction.
Shane: My connection to the Gallery began in 2009 when I had a solo show here. I think it has the best collection outside the State galleries, with some of my favourite works. I’ve always been inspired by Tom Roberts and Arthur Streeton, by the Heidelberg School era – at the moment I’m doing a series of profile portrait drawings inspired by Tom Roberts’s profile portraits. You’ve had a solo show here too, Deborah.
Deborah: Yes, I had a survey show here in 2008 that originated in Castlemaine, called Out of the Past.
Amanda: Do you classify yourselves as mid-career artists?
Shane: Assuming I live for another 20 years, this is my mid-career, if it’s all about time, but it’s an interesting concept. Raphael died at 37, so his mid-career was in his twenties. Late Basquiat artworks were painted in his mid-twenties. Artists develop at different rates and some artists do their best work in their youth, so by the time they get to ‘mid-career’ their best work is behind them.
Deborah: And then you have artists like Rosalie Gascoigne, who had her first exhibition when she was 57.
Shane: Having a career and what you do in the studio can be two separate things. What you do in the studio is up to the artist – your career is given to you by others. You can’t give yourself art prizes, or make someone buy your work, or make reviewers write about you. All you can do is your best work in the way you think it should be done – you can’t control anything else.
Deborah: It’s a title that’s superimposed afterwards by others. I think for any artist, if you’re still working after many years then that’s a measure of success. I do feel that I’m at a stage in my life where I’m gathering pieces together and seeing the aspects of my work that are most important to me. For example, I’ve been painting ‘non-portraits’ – the backs of women’s heads – for many years, and I’ve also used the iconography of tattooing in my work. Now I’m drawing those aspects together, revisiting and combining elements to take them somewhere else.
Shane: Because of this house we’ve bought in Ballarat we’ve been getting our work out of storage, which forces us to look back. It’s great to put those earlier works out because it’s where you’ve come from, where you started.
Deborah: Sometimes old work should stay buried, but I’ve been looking at a self-portrait I did in art school that’s interesting because it shows where some of the later work sprang from.
Amanda: Do you have a favourite artwork in the Gallery collection?
Deborah: I admire Clarice Beckett and Margaret Preston, but I have a lot of favourites. Anything from last year’s Becoming Modern show – I’ve always loved that period. I think it comes from growing up as an only child in St Kilda and my aunt, who lived next door, would play Fats Waller and Bing Crosby recordings for me, so I grew up loving that era and its music. The Modernist period has definitely influenced my own work, including my palette.
Shane: I love Tom Roberts’ Charcoal Burners, which is as much about the artist as the artwork. Tom Roberts and Arthur Streeton are the two artists who inspired me most in my early 20s when I started painting, even to the brush work and what colours to choose. When I looked at their work it was a revelation – they led me to look more closely at nature.
Deborah: Many of my favourite pictures are in the salon hang on the stairs. It’s been exciting seeing this and other new directions of the Gallery unfold.
Amanda: What about a favourite colour?
Shane: I don’t have a favourite colour, although I do have favourite combinations of colour like red, white and black; blue and yellow; brown, white and blue; black, white, green and pink; green, white and purple. I was a jockey when I was in my late teens and I always loved the colour combinations on the jockeys’ outfits. When I see certain colours together they do something to me – they stir something and set it alight.
Deborah: It’s intuitive. My colour is red, somewhere between crimson and scarlet – that’s the colour I use a lot in my work. Red is visually arresting and its meanings are many-layered and sometimes contradictory. It can indicate danger but also be joyous. Its connection with both the human body and the natural world is often reflected in my imagery.

Amanda McGraw, In the Gallery with Deborah Klein & Shane Jones (Untitled, Issue 3, ART GALLERY OF BALLARAT ASSOCIATION, Autumn 2020, pages 32-33).

Tuesday, March 24, 2020


Hope, 2018, pigmented drawing ink and gouache on Khadi paper, 21 x 15 cm (unframed)

To those who have told me how much they are looking forward to BACKSTORIES, my forthcoming solo show at Stephen McLaughlan Gallery, a sincere thank you. 

I’m looking forward to it too, only now it will happen a little later than originally planned. For the well-being of all concerned, the exhibition, which was due to run from 15 April - 2 May, will be rescheduled for a happier, healthier time that is still to be determined. 

Meanwhile, pictured top is one of my newly framed works that wait in readiness. Its title is Hope

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –

And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –

I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.

Keep safe, everyone.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Putting it together on Sondheim’s 90th

‘...The art of making art
Is putting it together...
Bit by bit,
Putting it together...
Piece by piece -
Only way to make a work of art.
Every moment makes a contribution,
Every little detail plays a part.
Having just a vision's no solution,
Everything depends on execution:
Putting it together-
That's what counts...’
Putting it Together (excerpt) from Sunday in the Park with George, 1984, music and lyrics by Stephen SondheimHappy 90th birthday, Mr. Sondheim. 🎂

Pictured above: Stephen Sondheim
Pictured top: Sunday, acrylic on linen, 40.5 x 30.5 cm (progress view)