Monday, October 16, 2017

A fleeting visit to Sydney

As the year rushes relentlessly forward, this is the first of several catch-up posts, hurriedly slipped in before the rest of 2017 runs away from me. (Daylight saving commenced at the beginning of the month, a sure-fire way of telling that the finish line is in sight).

At the end of last month (from Thursday 28 September - Friday 29 September, to be exact) Shane and I flew to Sydney for an all too brief visit. Just up the road from our hotel in Darlinghurst Road, Kings Cross, was the iconic El Alamein Fountain, which in my mind is far more closely associated with Sydney than the Opera House.

Photo credit: Shane Jones

We were also taken with several splendid examples of art deco architecture that are dotted around the area, including the following examples, neither of which would be out of place in an episode of the long running television series, Poirot.

The primary reason for our trip was a new production of Stephen Sondheim's Assassins at the Hayes Theatre in Potts Point. It was our first visit to the Hayes, but I sincerely hope it won't be our last.

The theatre is named after Australian theatre legend, Nancye Hayes, who I've seen in many fine productions over the years, including her breakthrough title role as Sweet Charity in 1967 and in more recent years, in one or two by the great Sondheim. Coincidentally, we spotted her in the street the night before the performance we attended. Directly below is the photographic portrait of her that hangs in the theatre lobby.

In my opinion, Assassins is one of Sondheim's finest works. If I were forced to pick a favourite, this would be it. (I understand it's the composer/lyricist's own favourite, in that it is closer than any of his other works to his original conception).

The entire season, which garnered a string of rave reviews, was sold out. Fortunately I'd booked our front row seats well in advance.

Assassins poster featuring David Campbell as John Wilkes Booth

Too many people sweepingly dismiss all musicals as vapid and vacuous (to quote a line from the show). Since Assassins debuted in 1991, its dazzling score and the deliciously dark wit of the book by John Weidman, with its diamond-sharp insights into the crazed minds of the protagonists, remain undiminished. Sadly, so too does its relevance. Here is the last verse of the Ballad of Booth, which refers, of course, to the actor John Wilkes Booth, the assassin of Abraham Lincoln.

Johnny Booth was a headstrong fellow,
Even he believed the things he said.
Some called him noble, some said yellow.
What he was was off his head.
How could you do it, Johnny,
Calling it a cause?
You left a legacy
Of butchery 
And treason we
Took eagerly,
And thought you'd get applause.
But traitors just get jeers and boos,
Not visits to their graves,
While Lincoln, who got mixed reviews,
Because of you, John, now gets only raves.
Damn, you Johnny,
You paved the way
For other madmen
To make us pay.
Lots of madmen
Have had their say -
But only for a day.
Listen to the stories. 
Hear it in the songs.
Angry men
Don't write the rules
And guns don't right the wrongs.
Hurts a while,
But soon the country's
Back where it belongs,
And that's the truth.
Still and all, 
Damn you Booth!

The non-linear story of Assassins unfolds in the shooting gallery of a fairground. Aside from the Proprietor (see photo directly below) and the activist and anarchist, Emma Goldman (Laura Bunting) its characters comprise every person who has either assassinated or attempted to assassinate an American president, beginning with Booth. (As the Proprietor tells the other would-be assassins: Hey, gang, look who's here/ Here's our pioneer...)

Ballad of Booth
was introduced by Patrick Cassidy (as the Balladeer) and Victor Garber (as John Wilkes Booth) in the original off-Broadway production of Assassins. Thanks to the magic of YouTube, you can see them perform it HERE. (If possible, skip the ad first. If you can't, at least it's mercifully brief).

Pictured above: Rob McDougall as the Proprietor

Still elated after the performance, Shane and I had a drink in the theatre bar and watched the actors gradually emerging in their street clothes, appearing remarkably calmer and saner than the unhinged characters they'd just inhabited so unnervingly.

Left: Maxwell Simon (the Balladeer and Lee Harvey Oswald) Laura Bunting (Emma
Goldman) and Connor Crawford (John Hinkley Jnr)

Centre: Hannah Friedricksen, who played Lynette 'Squeaky' Fromme.
Centre right: David Campbell, who was an unforgettable Booth

We were delighted to discover that another Sydney icon, a favourite haunt on many previous visits, Harry's Cafe de Wheels, was also walking distance from the hotel where we stayed. It's been famous for its meat pies since it was founded in 1938. Fortunately for me, they've moved with the times. A vegetarian option is available and it's quite delicious.

Shane Jones tucking into his pie

Above: detail of the mural that wraps around part of Harry's Cafe de Wheels.
On far right are two bona fide comedy geniuses: English born comedian Stan Laurel
and Australian comedy legend Roy Rene as Mo McCackie).

Saving every bite of my Cafe de Wheels vegetarian pie. Photo credit: Shane Jones

Along with Assassins, the highlight of our trip was our first time visit to historic Elizabeth Bay House in Onslow Avenue, Elizabeth Bay. It was built in 1835 - 1839 by Alexander Macleay, the Colonial Secretary of NSW from 1826 - 1837. Macleay was also a prodigious collector. I first became aware of the house several years ago when researching his extensive insect collection, now housed in the Macleay Museum, University of Sydney. Unfortunately, the museum is currently closed for refurbishment and is not due to reopen until 2019.

The majority of Elizabeth Bay House is Greek Revival. One of the most striking features is its graceful elliptical dome:

Directly below: one of the fine bedrooms in Elizabeth Bay House. The furniture is not original, but dates from the same period.

A contre-jour portrait of Shane Jones looking out onto Sydney Harbour:

Further along Onslow Avenue, directly after our visit to Elizabeth Bay House, we happened upon this poignant tribute to a much-loved cat:

Monday, September 25, 2017

Moth Woman Press at TONERPALOOZA II

The Moth Woman Press stall at TONERPALOOZA II Zine Fair, State Library of Victoria
Photo credit: Shane Jones

It was a privilege to be part of TONERPALOOZA II Zine Fair, held last weekend, Saturday 23 - Sunday 24 September, in the elegant Cowen Gallery at the State Library of Victoria. (See also Blog Post Thursday, 21 September, directly below). I was among the second tribe of invited zinesters who participated on Sunday. Fellow stall holders included Gracia + Louise, Marian Crawford, Rosalind Atkins and Miranda Costa.

TONERPALOOZA II was brilliantly coordinated by Sticky Institute and the State Library of Victoria. We had a steady stream of visitors, particularly in the afternoon (it was a Sunday, after all). I've just posted several photos of the event on my sister blog, Moth Woman Press. To view them, go HERE.

Thursday, September 21, 2017


Poster by Rachel Ang

Alas, there will be no rest for me after the deinstall of From the bower (see previous post).

At present I'm feverishly preparing for the TONERPALOOZA II ZINE FAIR at the State Library of Victoria. Coordinated by Sticky Institute to coincide with the current exhibition, SELF-MADE: ZINES AND ARTIST BOOKS, the zine fair will take place in the Cowen Gallery, State Library of Victoria, on Saturday 23 - Sunday 24 September between 10 am - 4 pm. I'll be there with Moth Woman Press on Sunday the 24th.

To mark the event, I've made three new mini-zines, including Her own Society (see below).

All three zines can previewed on Moth Woman Press HERE.

Her own Society, 2017, mini-zine, signed and numbered edition of 100. Published by Moth Woman Press.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Last day of FROM THE BOWER

Spending time with family and friends last Sunday afternoon, 17 September, was a splendid way to celebrate the last day of From the bower: patterns of collecting at the Art Gallery of Ballarat (see previous post).

Pictured with James and Rosemarie Jones. (James is Shane's twin brother). Photo credit: Shane Jones.

L - R: Wil Gregory and Tim Jones

James Jones and Shane Jones. (I've only just recognised the irony, intentional or otherwise, of James's suggestion
that they be photographed with Doppelgänger)

It was great to see so many people streaming through the show, right up to the very end. I'd just taken a photo of my phemograph, Doppelgänger, so I could show it in situ to master printer Luke Ingram, who not only printed, but also framed the work, when, as if by magic, the man himself materialised.

Pictured with Doppelgänger and its printer and framer, Luke Ingram

Luke is also the printer of my unbound artist book, Leaves of Absence (see below) recently shortlisted for the Geelong Print Prize and Fremantle Print Award. I’m currently working with him on a series of works for Fallen Women, a forthcoming solo exhibition at Tacit contemporary art, scheduled for 29 November – 17 December. 

Luke Ingram pictured with Leaves of Absence

It was a memorable end to what has been a memorable experience in so many ways. Tomorrow my fellow artists, Carole Wilson, Loris Button, Louise Saxton and I face the mammoth task of dismantling and packing up. (I believe Louise has actually started today, due to the extra time and care required to pack her delicate sculpture, Porcelain Garden).

A post-show celebratory lunch, which will include our extraordinary exhibition and catalogue designer, Brenda Wellman, is planned for the very near future.  

Monday, September 11, 2017

From the Bower - final days

Where has the time gone to? It's hard to believe that after several months, it's nearly journey's end for From the bower - patterns of collecting. It's a journey that began earlier this year at Warrnambool Art Gallery, where the show ran from 18 March - 12 June before travelling to the Art Gallery of Ballarat, where it opened on 29 July.

From artists/collectors Loris Button, Louise Saxton, Carole Wilson and I (AKA the Bower Birds) thank you so much to all who saw our show. For those who haven't yet managed a visit, don't despair. You have until next weekend before it finishes its run at the Art Gallery of Ballarat on Sunday 17 September at 5 pm.

The following installation views of From the Bower at the AGB were taken by photographer Tim Gresham. In labelling them, I realised that providing full details of each and every work and collection item would be far too unwieldy, so in most instances each artwork is identified solely by its maker and in the case of individual collection objects, by its owner. Click on individual images for a clearer view.

From the Bower, L - R: Cabinet of curiosities; on the wall: works by Loris Button, Carole Wilson and Loris Button
and items from the collection of Loris Button

L - R: works by Loris Button, Deborah Klein, Louise Saxton and Carole Wilson

Left wall L R: Items from the collections of Loris Button and Louise Saxton, drawing by Loris Button
Right wall L - R: works by Deborah Klein and Louise Saxton

L - R: Works by Deborah Klein and Louise Saxton

L - R: Works by Deborah Klein, Carole Wilson, Deborah Klein, Carole Wilson, Loris Button and Deborah Klein
Plinths on righthand side: combined collection objects

L - R: Works by Loris Button and Louise Saxton, objects from the collection of Loris Button (on plinth),
works by Carole Wilson and Deborah Klein

L - R: Works by Louise Saxton, Loris Button, Carole Wilson, objects from the collections of Loris Button and
Louise Saxton, drawing by Loris Button. On plinth: Combined objects from the artists' collections

L - R: Works by Deborah Klein, Carole Wilson, Deborah Klein, Carole Wilson, Loris Button and Deborah Klein
Plinths on far right: combined collection objects; on plinth foreground right: Porcelain Garden by Louise Saxton

L - R: Works by Carole Wilson, combined collections cabinet, works by Loris Button, Carole Wilson and Loris Button,
collection objects: Loris Button
L - R: Works by Louise Saxton, Loris Button, Carole Wilson, objects from the collections of Loris Button and
Louise Saxton, drawing by Loris Button. On plinth: Combined objects from the artists' collections

L - R: Works by Louise Saxton, Loris Button and Louise Saxton, objects from the collection of Loris Button (on plinth),
works by Carole Wilson and three works by Deborah Klein (including two on plinths)

Deborah Klein L - R: Tattooed Faces Sampler, A Cabinet of Moth Masks and Vignette Vitrine

L - R: Objects from the collection of Loris Button, works by Carole Wilson and Deborah Klein

L - R: Textile work by Louise Saxton, drawing by Loris Button. On plinth: Combined objects from the artists' collections

L - R: Works by Louise Saxton, Loris Button, Carole Wilson, objects from the collection of Loris Button
 On plinth: Combined objects from the artists' collections

L - R: Works by Loris Button and Louise Saxton, objects from the collection of Loris Button

Foreground: Porcelain Garden by Louise Saxton
Background: Combined collections wall

L - R: Leaves of Absence artist book by Deborah Klein with related collection objects
On wall: works by Carole Wilson and Deborah Klein

Cabinet of curiosities from the artists' collections (view 1)
On left: Works by Loris Button, Carole Wilson and Loris Button

Cabinet of curiosities from the artists' collections (view 2)
In background: works by Carole Wilson

Cabinet of curiosities from the artists' collections (view 3)
In background: combined collections wall

Combined collections wall designed by Loris Button with assistance from Carole Wilson

Friday, September 8, 2017

IMPRINT interview: PCA Print Commission 2017

At work on Moth Women Vigilantes Rogues Gallery zines in the Ballarat studio. Photo credit: Shane Jones

Andrew Stephens, Editor of the Print Council of Australia's quarterly journal IMPRINT, recently interviewed me about Pressed for Time, my 2017 PCA Print Commission work. A link to the interview (which is followed by some terrific printmaking-related articles, including interviews with fellow 2017 PCA Print Commission artists) is here:

Pressed for Time, 2017, archival pigment print, 31.3 x 23.2 cm. Ed: 30.
Printer: Luke Ingram 

I've sometimes found that due to changes in website settings, links don't always work down the track, so the interview is also reproduced below.

Deborah Klein discusses her work selected in the 2017 PCA Print Commission

Q: What is your relationship to printmaking and how did you develop this interest?

A: Through the years my relationship to printmaking has shifted and changed. In the immediate post-art school period and for a long time afterwards, relief printmaking was my primary means of creative expression. For the last fifteen years or so, however, my work has come to be fairly evenly divided between printmaking, painting, drawing and, more recently, zines and artist books.

When I enrolled in art school in 1983, it was as a painting major. But almost from the start, I found myself drawn to printmaking and soon switched majors. There has always been a narrative element to my work that I sensed would be better suited to a more graphic medium. I was particularly attracted to the direct nature of single block linocuts. For many years I'd admired the woodcuts of Albrecht Dürer, Hans Holbein and the German Expressionists. An investigation of the prints of Australian modernist artist Margaret Preston and her contemporaries also fuelled my growing interest in the medium.

Q: How did you approach your submission for the PCA Print Commission 2017?

A: For the past two years I've been developing a body of work, collectively titled Leaves of Absence. It's my first foray into archival pigment prints. I'm entirely self-taught, with no previous experience with or technical knowledge of the medium. 

The first works in the series were made for what was supposedly a one-off project, but I found myself increasingly attracted to this completely new way of working, even as I was still feeling my way with it. In time, my confidence with and commitment to the medium grew and it has developed into a significant extension of my printmaking practice. 

My three previous works selected for the PCA print commission (the first dating from 1986, the year after I graduated from art school) have each represented key developmental stages in my imagery. So the time felt right to submit a work that reflected its newest direction. 

Q: What are some of the foundation ideas that have guided the creation of the visual content of the work you submitted?

A: For the past six years I've been dividing my time between Melbourne and the Victorian Goldfields city of Ballarat, primarily in the latter, where I have a house and studio. During that time, I've become increasingly interested in the history of the area and its surrounds. 

Pressed for Time is part of a body of work focusing on the absence of Chinese women from the goldfields during the Australian gold rush. The eucalyptus leaf in this work and all those in the series were gathered in the tiny Victorian Goldfields town of Newstead. The forest floor is still dotted with holes, the last traces of the 3000 Chinese miners who once lived and worked there. The miners' plight on the Goldfields is well documented, but almost nothing is known about the women who remained in China. The silhouettes hand-painted onto each leaf represent one of those unknown women. 

Q: How does it relate to your broader body of work?

A: Lost and hidden histories are dominant themes in my work. Doomed to anonymity, my characters are sometimes masked, or stand with their backs turned to the viewer. More recently, as in Pressed for Time, they appear in the guises of Shadow Women. Silhouetted figures first appeared in my work in 2013, most notably in Tall Tales, a series of one-of-a-kind vertical concertina artist books.

Q: What were some of the technical challenges involved?

A: At first everything about this body of work was challenging, as it was completely uncharted territory. From the day I gathered the first eucalyptus leaves in Newstead, I worked intuitively. I had no set guidelines or instructions to work from and had no idea if the images would actually work as prints.

In the past, I printed most of my linocuts myself. On occasion I've worked with some wonderful master printers, but in every case the image was already pretty well resolved. 

The digital prints were an entirely different matter. For a number of practical reasons, including necessary access to specialist equipment, I had no choice but to work with a printer, and in much closer proximity than I had in the past. I was already way out of my comfort zone and found the prospect incredibly daunting. I knew it was vital to find a printer who understood the ideas, aesthetic, and visual language of the work and wouldn't be judgemental about my lack of experience in this area. Through a fortuitous recommendation from a fellow printmaker, I found just that in Luke Ingram and his colleague, Daisy Watkins-Harvey, at Arten in Abbotsford. I trust their judgment and have learned a great deal from them. They encouraged my fledgling efforts from the start and on a number of occasions have helped me to further refine the imagery during the crucial proofing stage.

Q: What other projects are you working on? 

A: At present I'm working towards a solo show at Tacit Contemporary Art in Melbourne. Fallen Women, my first exhibition of archival pigment prints, will run from 29 November - 17 December 2017.