Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Bad and the Beautiful Blister Beetle Women

 Blister Beetle Woman, 2014, watercolour, 41.91 x 29.72 cm.

Before, after and in between recent MIFF screenings we somehow found time to capture another insect womanThis was no mean feat, as the dark and dangerous Blister Beetle Woman is truly the femme fatale of the homo-insecta world.

Blister Beetles (Coleoptera) from the Meloidae family are named for their defensive secretion of a blistering agent, Cantharidin, a poisonous chemical that causes blistering of the skin. It is used medically to remove warts. Many Blister Beetles (including this example) are conspicuously colored, alerting would-be predators to their toxicity.

Don’t say you haven’t been warned.

Pictured above: the fully formed homo-insecta, followed below by a series of images sequentially charting her evolutionary progress in reverse.

Blister Beetle Woman (detail)

Monday, August 18, 2014

MIFF, Melbourne Art Fair and Resonance

As of yesterday evening, the Melbourne International Film Festival is over for another year. I always feel a bit sad to see it end, especially when I’ve enjoyed it as much as I did this one*. It’s the one of the few times of the year that I give myself permission for a little guilt-free time off work. But with several deadlines looming, needs must; I brought a pile of homo-insecta linocuts with me to Melbourne, intending to hand colour them in between trips to the cinema and on the rare days we didn’t have a film to go to. It worked out surprisingly well; MIFF became a sound structure around which I was able to create an effortless and satisfying balance between work and play.

The hand colouring was completed somewhat ahead of the time I’d allotted for it (see August 10 blog post) and so I seized the opportunity to continue with the fledgling homo-insecta watercolours. By the festival’s end two more of these were nearly completed. The finishing touches to the second were applied earlier today. (Both will feature in future posts).  

But it hasn’t all been MIFF and work. On Saturday afternoon Shane and I drove to Maroondah Art Gallery to see Resonance, Craig Gough’s dazzling solo exhibition (is there another living colourist as fine as he?) At 2 pm Craig gave an informal, entertaining and enlightening floor talk, which, thanks to his enthusiastic audience, generated into a lively discussion specifically about his work and broader issues including abstraction versus figuration and acrylics versus oil paint.

From left: Craig Gough's Primary and Spacial Blue, both 2013, acrylic on canvas 

Back in the dim, distant 1980s, Craig was one of my painting and drawing lecturers at uni. Many post-art school years afterwards, and several MIFFs ago, we recognized Craig and his partner, artist Wendy Stavrianos queuing next to us at the Forum Cinema for Agnes Varda’s The Gleaners and I (2000). I hadn’t seen Craig since my graduation and it was our first meeting with Wendy. We had a great natter that night (I seem to remember the previous screening was running overtime). Coincidentally, some weeks later Shane and I were curated into an exhibition with Wendy at Charles Nodrum Gallery: The Painted Fold. It gave us anther opportunity to connect with she and Craig – and so an enduring and treasured friendship was born.

Wendy Stavrianos offers a Turkish Delight to an appropriately delighted Shane Jones.
Background, left-right: Maroondah Art Gallery Curator Lisa Byrne, Craig Gough and Assistant Curator Clinton Greenwood

Wendy, Lisa and Craig

Coinciding with the film festival was the biennial Melbourne Art Fair, which we visited on the last day, prior to the early evening screening of our last MIFF film.

The art overload begins. Photo credit: Shane Jones

I must admit to having mixed feelings about the Art Fair. To my knowledge, Art Overload has never actually killed, or even hospitalized anyone, but feel certain there must have been some close calls. Still and all, we really enjoyed the experience this time around. These days I have my head down in the Ballarat studio and lead a comparatively isolated existence; the fair provided an opportunity to see a great deal of what is out there under one enormous roof. Inevitably we bumped into several acquaintances and friends, including Polixeni Papapetrou, Godwin Bradbeer, Jackie Hocking, Rachel Hancock, Margaret Snowden, Adriane Strampp and Peter Lancaster. Stopping periodically for amiable conversation broke up the time, effectively preventing a potentially fatal art overdose.

Shane takes a breather before taking on the second level

I even bought an artwork, from Arts Project, one of our favourite stands: a wonderful drawing by Bobby Kryiakopoulos of the Wicked Witch of the West, as portrayed by Margaret Hamilton in the move The Wizard of Oz.

For the first time, there were two adjuncts to the Art Fair, the Not Fair (which we didn’t get to, although the venue, the Grace Darling Hotel, is fairly local to us) and Spring.1883 at the Hotel Windsor, which featured 20 galleries, each exhibiting in suites over four floors, a brilliant, fun, creatively challenging idea that was wholeheartedly embraced by all the galleries concerned. 

Our last MIFF movie was The Great Museum, a documentary about the famous Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, its extraordinary collection and the people who work there. So the twin themes of visual art and film finally converged and our marvelous MIFF fortnight ended on a perfect note.

Pictured below: our favourite apr├Ęs movie hangout: the Festival Lounge at the fabulous Forum Theatre.

*Our 2014 MIFF movies:
Life Itself
The Vanquishing of the Witch Baba Yaga
An Honest Liar
Sepideh – Reaching for the Stars
The Story of my Death
The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden
Rhomer in Paris
Trespassing Bergman
The Great Museum
Amour Fou

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Goliath Beetle Woman

The most recently documented homo-insecta to emerge from the Ballarat studio: Goliath Beetle Woman, 2014, watercolour, 41.91 x 29.72 cm:

The work is pictured below in various stages of progress.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Near Neighbours

The masked Moth Women look on with thinly disguised disdain as a battalion of Beetle women assembles...

They will be joined by a squadron of Cicada Women...

...a hoard of Hover-fly Women, a cavalry of Katydid Women and other cacophonous creatures in the exhibition 
near neighbours

Join us, if you can, at the opening: 2-4 pm, Saturday 6 September, or drop by during the show's run. 

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Australian Print Workshop: Contemporary Print exhibition and the APW Print Fair

Saturday, August 2 was a MIFF-free day (see previous post) but an eventful one nonetheless. I attended an information session at the Australian Print Workshop (my stint there as a Special Guest Artist of their Summer School has already made my personal list of this year’s highlights).

APW Print Fair poster, Australian Print Workshop, Melbourne

I’m delighted to be one of 15 artists invited to take part in the APW’S first ever Print Fair, which will take place over the weekend of 11-12 October, 2014. The information session, conducted by APW Director Anne Virgo and Manager Jackie Hocking, was tremendously helpful and informative, with a wealth of practical tips about presentation and other vital issues.

It was terrific to see fellow APW Print Fair artists Georgia Thorpe and Jazmina Cininas and to meet the other participants. The fair will be held in the APW studios, amongst all those wonderful presses. We already have our individual spots, which were democratically allocated: each of us was invited to pull a number from a bucket. I’m thrilled with mine: number 12 is at the far back of studio one, next to the etching press I used back in my access printing days.

During the Print Fair there will be exhibition of works by Print Fair artists in the APW Gallery.

Meanwhile, Jewel Beetle Woman, the linocut I made early this year in collaboration with APW Master Printer Simon White, is part of the APW’s current exhibition, Contemporary Print – Original limited edition prints produced in collaboration with APW Printers. Also featured are works by Lisa Roet, Laith McGregor, Allan Mitelman, Andrew Browne, Jan Senbergs, Emily Floyd, Louise Weaver, eX de Medici, John Wolseley and Chris O’Doherty (aka Reg Mombassa). Contemporary Print opened on 19 July and runs until 23 August.

APW Manager Jackie Hocking colourfully juxtaposed with my linocut Jewel Beetle Woman
 at the current exhibition Contemporary Print, Australian Print Workshop, Melbourne

The Melbourne International Film Festival, Miss Daisy, Madame Arcati and Dame Angela

Currently I’m spending more time in Melbourne than in Ballarat (generally it's the other way around). We’re in town for the 2014 Melbourne International Film Festival, an event Shane and I eagerly anticipate each year. Our first film screened on the first day of MIFF: Life Itself, an affectionate, moving documentary about the late American film critic Roger Ebert.

Fine as Life Itself was, the movie we saw on Sunday, August 3, will be hard to beat. It screened at the Kino cinema, one of the MIFF venues, although Driving Miss Daisy, a three-hander brilliantly performed by Angela Lansbury, James Earl Jones and Boyd Gaines, wasn’t part of the festival. It was filmed in 2013 at Melbourne’s Comedy Theatre during the sold-out season of the play, which regular visitors to this blog may remember I singled out as one of last year’s personal highlights. It’s marvelous that it’s been so sensitively captured on film; having the chance to experience it all over again was an utter joy.

Outside the Geilgud Theatre, London on the day we booked our tickets for Blithe Spirit.
Photograph by Barbara Britton

I mentioned above that the film will be hard to top, but in fact immediately afterwards it was at least equaled by a riveting, in-depth interview with Angela Lansbury conducted recently at London’s British Film Institute directly after the screening there of Driving Miss Daisy. (Miss Lansbury was in London appearing as Madame Arcati in a scintillating new production of Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit, which we saw back in April, and for which she received some of the best notices of her career). The interview is a must for lovers of theatre, film and, of course, the incomparable Miss Lansbury. Having said that, counting Shane and I, there were only eight people in the audience. Perhaps it was a mistake to screen it at the same time as MIFF. The Kino also ran Driving Miss Daisy on Saturday, August 2. I hope that at least on that day it got the audience it deserved. 

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Studio visitors #2: Goldfields Printmakers

On Saturday morning  (July 26) Goldfields Printmakers, of which I’m a member, held their latest meeting at my Ballarat studio. The Agenda, drawn up by the group’s founder, President and driving force, Jimmy Pasakos was, as always, an extremely full one, detailing projects stretching well into 2016, including a planned submission for the international printmaking conference, IMPACT 9, to be held in China in 2015. (In 2013 Jimmy presented a selection of our work at IMPACT 8, hosted by the University of Dundee in Scotland; the work was also exhibited at the Art Gallery of Ballarat and Wharepuke Print Studio, New Zealand during the same year).

Next on the list for Goldfield Printmakers is our eponymous group exhibition at Firestation Print Studio, Prahran, which opens on 4 October. Full details will be posted nearer the time.

Castlemaine-based Catherine Pilgrim, a superb lithographer and an old friend, is the latest inductee to the group. It’s great to have her on board.

From left: Loris Button, Kim Barter, Jackie Gorring, Catherine Pilgrim and Goldfields Printmakers Treasurer David Pudney

From left: Jimmy Pasakos, Barbara Semler, Josephine Walsh, Loris Button. The keen-eyed will also spot Barbara’s dog Polly)

From left:  Josephine Walsh (foreground) David Pudney, Jimmy Pasakos, 
Barbara Semler and Polly. 

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 9.

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