Friday, February 20, 2009

…a thousand words, Tweed River Art Gallery, NSW

Anon, 1998, colour linocut, 57.5 x 38 cm.
Click on image to enlarge.

Curated by Susi Muddiman and Gail McDermott, the exhibition features works selected from the Print Archive of the Print Council of Australia.

Tweed River Art Gallery
Cnr Tweed Valley Way and Mistral Road
Murwillumbah NSW 2484
Phone: 02 66702792

The exhibition will run from 27 March – 13 September.

Anon was originally part of a body of work called Private Collection. It was exhibited at Australian Galleries, Melbourne, in 2000 and comprised drawings, miniature multi panelled paintings and relief prints. This series, which marked a major change of direction in my work, evolved after a visit to London in 1997. In a small upstairs room in Kenwood House on Hampstead Heath I discovered an astonishing collection of mourning jewellery and portrait miniatures. Subsequently I investigated other similarly fine collections, most notably in London’s Victoria and Albert Museum and the National Portrait Gallery. But it is the contents of that modest room at Kenwood House which had the greatest impact, possibly because this was where what was has been a long, ongoing journey began.

A significant part of my previous work, namely the Tattooed Faces and Figures, had focused on women's sewing iconography, sometimes incorporating motifs such as lace and other textile-related patterns. This eventually led to a number of experimental works wherein linocuts were printed onto fabric, layered and hand stitched. The last, and most ambitious, of these was The Daughter of Time (1997, linocut on white and grey interfacing with hand stitching 200 x 76 cm.) The last-minute incorporation of two overlapping oval braids was quite intuitive, little more than a compositional device. Uncannily, however, it anticipated the next phase of my work, in which hair, particularly intricately patterned knots and braids, would take centre stage.

The motif of lace was also carried though in the majority of the relief prints that directly followed this work, including Anon. It is printed from two blocks onto semi-transparent Japanese Mending Tissue, which was chosen both for its sensitive and receptive surface and its resemblance to the fabrics with which I had previously experimented, particularly interfacing. As with the Fabric Pieces, the paper is an integral part of the visual language of the work.

Initially the manner in which the hair in mourning jewellery was painstakingly woven and patterned translated into my own work as an extension of the sewing iconography I had previously employed. But very soon hair, with its opposing qualities of seductiveness and creepiness (as in the context of mourning jewellery) assumed a significance all its own. For Anon and its companion works, I extended my research to an investigation of Celtic knots. In order to exploit the increasingly intricate knots and braids to the fullest, I was obliged to turn my protagonists’ faces away from the viewer. The title of this work best describes their subsequent fate.

Deborah Klein
Melbourne, February, 2009