Saturday, July 31, 2021


We finally made it! 

Pictured above: Shell Tattoo, 2019, pigmented drawing ink and gouache on Khadi paper, 21 x 15 cm, part of my solo show, ‘Backstories’ at Stephen McLaughlan Gallery. If you’re free, join us for the Artist Celebration today from 1 - 5 pm. 

The exhibition continues to 7 August. 

Friday, July 30, 2021

Far Horizon

Heartfelt thanks for the outpouring of support you’ve sent my way since last Tuesday’s post; hearing your own stories of not only surviving, but thriving, has been inspiring. I won’t be able to respond to all of your messages - there are far too many and they are still coming. But be assured every one of them means the world.

More than once over the past several months, I’ve wanted to say something about my diagnosis. In the end, it became even harder to say nothing. Responding to texts, emails and PMs on a fairly regular basis explaining why I couldn’t meet individuals for coffee and the like, much as I’d sometimes have loved to, was draining and stressful. I felt caught in a loop, reliving the diagnosis each time, using precious energy I needed for my work and for healing. Don’t get me wrong - it’s lovely that people want to catch up and in these days of restrictions and lockdowns, there seems to be a greater sense of urgency involved. But even after I confided in people, some would still persist, and once again I would try to explain about my compromised immune system and the necessity to self-isolate. Despite some misgivings, finally I felt I had no choice but to put it all out there, in the hope that once and for all, people would understand. They have - in droves - and I can’t begin to say how much it means to me. 

I’m feeling truly blessed to have the wonderful family and friends who’ve been through this with me and despite the increasingly debilitating side-affects of the chemotherapy, spending even brief time in the studio has been an essential part of the recovery process. So, I might add, has preparation for my current solo show. Some days there are so many details to attend to, my head is fairly spinning - and I’ve loved every minute of it. 

Pictured above is Far Horizon, 2020, triptych, acrylic on three canvases, 18 x 12.5 cm (each panel), the first work I made after receiving the diagnosis and the last work I posted before taking extended leave from social media. At the time, I faced an uncertain future - I didn’t even know if the cancer had spread. For months afterwards, I couldn’t even look at the painting because it triggered dark memories. In the intervening period, however, Far Horizon has become a potent reminder of just how far I’ve come. This week Stephen McLaughlan Gallery reopened. The next time I see the work will be at the Artist Celebration tomorrow afternoon - a milestone of sorts. It feels like I really will have something to celebrate. 

Thursday, July 29, 2021

The gallery is OPEN

Yesterday, for the first time since lockdown, the door of Stephen McLaughlan Gallery opened on my solo show, BACKSTORIES

This coming Saturday afternoon I’ll finally get to see Stephen’s elegant hang firsthand and hope you can join me. 

Scroll down for your invitation.

📷 Installation view by Stephen McLaughlan.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Backstory to BACKSTORIES

As an essentially private person, the following isn’t the kind of information I normally share publicly. But for a number of reasons, I feel it’s necessary to explain why it has been so important to me that my current show goes ahead as planned - or as close to it as possible. 

As some of you already know, since November 2020, I’ve been treated for breast cancer. My first reaction after I received the diagnosis - that is, after the initial shock and disbelief - was that I didn’t want a fuss, particularly because for some anxious weeks, I didn’t even know what my prognosis was. At first I only told only a handful of friends and family, who have been tremendously supportive and encouraging throughout this ordeal. I love them all dearly and can never thank them enough. Needless to add, I simply don’t know what I would have done without Shane - and neither of us know what we’d have done without our cat, Alice. An incorrigible show off, she can always make us laugh, even when our spirits are down.

From the outset, I continued making my work, albeit a scaled-down version of it, with full encouragement from the brilliant Oncology team at Ballarat Base Hospital. 

With these support systems in place, and with the intention of directing my energy into surviving this thing, late last year I withdrew for several months from social media. A compromised immune system meant I had to largely withdraw from social interactions too. 

From the outset, I’ve refused to let the illness define me. Making my work didn’t just keep my spirits up - it helped retain a sense of normalcy and equilibrium, so much so that for hours at a time I would actually forget I was sick. 

Miraculously, the galleries where I had shows booked were all able to reschedule my exhibitions. They have my eternal gratitude, as it also meant I had something to work towards and look forward to. I know it wasn’t easy for them, because they were also dealing with the uncertainties of COVID-19, as they still are. 

In recent weeks, I’ve had successful surgery. However, months of intensive chemotherapy have left me with numb fingertips - a real concern for an artist - and my feet and ankles are sometimes so numb, on some days I can barely walk. Fortunately I can still hold a paintbrush - but on some days I feel so drained and exhausted, my studio time is minimal. I’m assured the numbness will eventually subside. Meanwhile, even half an hour in the studio still adds up. 

Technically I’m now cancer-free and after the surgery, I dared to think that my life would soon return to some kind of normalcy, especially as, side affects aside, I’d responded so well to treatment. Unfortunately, small traces of cancer cells were found in the now very small tumour that was removed. It seems only 15-20 percent of patients come through this procedure completely free and clear. Mine was a particularly aggressive cancer, so another 6 months of preventative treatment will be required. This came as a blow, because not only will the next lot of treatments be potentially even more debilitating than the first, I still haven’t completely recovered from the previous chemo. The good news is that the treatments will ensure my long-term survival, so I’ve come to terms with it. 

The treatments are due to start in August. The ever supportive Oncology and Radiotherapy Departments at Ballarat Base Hospital have been aiming to time them so I can have my show first, which is why the latest lockdown has been especially stressful. A third postponement would have been devastating. Thankfully, today’s easing of restrictions will ensure the exhibition at Stephen McLaughlan Gallery goes ahead and fortunately I’m pretty well prepared for a second exhibition later this year at Queenscliff Gallery

Last November my life changed in ways I could never have imagined. But not of all it has been bad, not by a long shot. It will take some time yet to process all the good that has come out of this. But that’s another story.

Pictured from top:

Seeker, 2019, acrylic on linen, 40.5 x 30.5 cm

Shane Jones and Alice in the cinema room outside my studio, July 2021

Sunday, July 25, 2021

BACKSTORIES - Rescheduled Artist Celebration

Lately it seems that trying to plan anything at all is either a gigantic act of faith or simply downright foolhardy. In these crazy Covid times, I’ve clocked up several different invitations to BACKSTORIES, my twice-postponed solo exhibition. 

Fingers crossed, this time time it will be a case of third time lucky. Feather Tattoo, the image on the latest invitation, has been particularly well chosen by Stephen McLaughlan. Its subtitle is Hope.

Please join us for the Artist Celebration this coming Saturday afternoon, 31 July, from 1 - 5 pm. 

Saturday, July 24, 2021

BACKSTORIES: another teaser


Pictured above: another BACKSTORIES teaser. Photomontage by Stephen McLaughlan; click on image for a clearer view. 

All going well, the next time we see the work will be in the flesh at Stephen McLaughlan Gallery. Stay tuned for updates. 

Thursday, July 22, 2021

BACKSTORIES: An Interim Invitation

Thanks to a truly superhuman effort by Stephen McLaughlan, the installation of my solo show has been completed. I couldn’t be more delighted with the beautiful, elegant hang, and can’t thank Stephen enough.

Last night Shane and I projected Stephen’s detailed installation views on the big screen in our home cinema. They gave us a very real sense of the look and feel of the show, outside of actually being there. We still can’t believe Stephen achieved it all in a day - less than that, actually - as delivery of the work wasn’t until lunchtime (another shoutout to the brilliant Ballarat branch of Pack & Send). 

While we await the outcome of the current lockdown, an interim invitation is pictured above and, by way of a teaser, an installation view is below. Photo credit: Stephen McLaughlan.

To compensate for the show’s delayed start, the gallery’s opening hours will be extended for the run of the show (see invitation). I can’t wait to see the real thing and hope you will join me as soon as lockdown allows. 

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Hope springs eternal

Lately we’ve been storing the work for my solo show, Backstories, in our small library to keep it safe from the ever-curious Alice. This morning, as Shane and I packed up the work ready for delivery to Stephen McLaughlan Gallery, we forgot to close the library door until it was too late. 

With lockdown extended by a further seven days from today, Stephen suggested we courier the work to the gallery, because under current restrictions, we can’t deliver it ourselves. Thanks to Pack and Send in Wendouree, the work will arrive in Melbourne tomorrow. Stephen’s idea is to go ahead and hang the show, so whenever things open up again, we’ll be ready!

Failing another extension of lockdown, we’re still in with a chance, and all going well, there will be some kind of celebration, even if it’s not technically an opening.

Once again, thank you all so much for your supportive messages. Stay safe, everyone.

Sunday, July 18, 2021

“Hope” is the thing with feathers

“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. 

-   Emily Dickinson (1891)

Pictured top: Feather Tattoo (AKA Hope), 2019, ink and gouache on Khadi paper, 21 x 15 cm. 

It’s almost two years since I made this drawing and like to think that something of the almost overwhelming sense of optimism I felt at the time is conveyed in the work. Today, while the State of Victoria holds its breath, I hover between despair or (as in the lyric from Cock-Eyed Optimist by Oscar Hammerstein), am “stuck like a dope with a thing called hope”. 

Friday, July 16, 2021

Lockdown, Day 1


I’ve posted this work before. Ironically, it was in post-lockdown, November 2020, when our part of the world was just beginning to open up, as it will again.

In the light of current events, it feels appropriate to repost it. Stay safe and positive, everyone.

On Day 1 of the 5-day lockdown, I’m still hoping my solo show, Backstories, will open on Saturday, 24 July from 2-4 pm, as originally planned. Thank you so much to the many people who have sent their good wishes and messages of support.

I will keep you posted about any changes if lockdown is extended. 

Pictured top: Looking Forward, 2020, ink and gouache on Khadi paper, 21 x 15 cm.

Monday, July 12, 2021

Art documentation

At the start of a new week, preparation for my forthcoming solo show, Backstories, continues apace. 

This afternoon we visited the studio of photographer Tim Gresham to get the last of the artworks documented. On the left is The Sea She Saw, the painting I recently reworked. (See Blog Post Saturday, July 3). 

Tim has been photographing my artwork since the late 1980s, when we both lived in Melbourne. Fortunately for me - and a lot of other local artists - he moved to Ballarat a few years ago. Tim still spends three days in Melbourne (he is also a talented weaver, and works part-time at the renowned Australian Tapestry Workshop), so Melbourne-based artists and galleries can still avail themselves of his services.

Ordinarily, I get groups of artworks documented as I go along. Today Tim also photographed a second work (not pictured) that was actually painted last year, but somehow fell through the cracks at the time. The next time I see the works on the wall will be on July 24 at the opening of my show at Stephen McLaughlan Gallery

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Your Invitation to BACKSTORIES

Please find your very own invitation to:

DEBORAH KLEIN - Backstories

An exhibition of paintings and works on paper at Stephen McLaughlan Gallery, Melbourne.

If you’re free, join us for the Opening Event from 2-4 pm on Saturday, 24 July. Otherwise, I do hope you’ll call in during the exhibition’s run.

Backstories opens on 21 July and concludes on 7 August, 2021.

(Image on invitation: Vortex, 2019, acrylic on linen, 40.5 x 30.5 cm. Photo credit: Tim Gresham).

Friday, July 9, 2021

Exhibition preparation

Pictured below: making  a list and checking it twice… part of the seemingly endless preparation for a solo exhibition.

Top row: Shell Tattoo, Shield Bug Tattooed Woman and Looking Forward. Bottom row: Swan Song and Beekeeper. All works are pigmented drawing ink and gouache on Khadi paper.

Meanwhile, under the table, Alice is in bubblewrap heaven.

Backstories, my solo show at Stephen McLaughlan Gallery, runs from 21 July - 7 August.

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

THE BIG KITTY screens at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival

It’s been awhile since I’ve reported on Tom Alberts and Lisa Barmby’s debut indie feature, THE BIG KITTY. Along with other Melbourne artists, Shane Jones and I play supporting roles in the film. Well, here is an update worth waiting for.

THE BIG KITTY will be screened at the 74th Cannes Film Festival, as part of Seléction Cinéma des Antipodes, Cannes Cinéphiles, running from 6 - 17 JulyLisa and Tom, who are currently based in France, will be in attendance.

The screening dates and cinemas are:

Vendredi   jul  19.30 Le Raimu

Samedi  10 jul  18.30 Alexandre III

Dimanche  11 jul  12.00 Studio 13

Additionally, in late June, THE BIG KITTY was included in the official programme of Australia now, a cultural celebration organised by the Embassy of Australia, Paris.

Sadly, Monsieur Baptiste, THE BIG KITTY himself, recently passed away. What a wonderful tribute to him this film is, as it continues its amazing run.

For more about THE BIG KITTY, click HERE.

Pictured from top:

THE BIG KITTY at the 74th Festival de Cannes poster. (Pictured L-R: Jasmine Mahon, Paul McCluskey, Mariella DelConte, Tom Alberts, Lisa Barmby, Lewis Miller, myself, Shane Jones, Angela Cavalieri and Steven Kafkarisos)

Australia now poster

Tom Alberts as Private Detective Guy Boyman and Lisa Barmby as Princess Yukova Illinaditch 

Shane Jones as Police Commissioner Shadrack 

Deborah Klein as fortune teller, Madame F

Monsieur Baptiste as THE BIG KITTY, with Lisa Barmby as the Princess 

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

The Final Varnish

In the art supply shop last Monday I felt slightly vindicated to learn I’m not the only one who turns to jelly when it comes to varnishing pictures, especially in the lead-up to a show. Fortunately Shane Jones, who clearly has nerves of steel, came to the rescue. But he didn’t do it alone. From the stage in our upstairs cinema room, Alice supervised the entire operation - that is, until the lure of the bubblewrap proved too great. 


Saturday, July 3, 2021


Backstories, my solo show at Stephen Mclaughlan Gallery has been a long time coming. It was originally scheduled for April 2020, and the works, a combination of paintings and drawings, were all ready to go. Then along came Covid, followed by another unforeseen circumstance that necessitated a second postponement. In the interim period, I made a few more works, all of which may, or may not, make the final cut.

More than 12 months on, reconnecting with the work for Backstories was not a little unnerving. As I unwrapped it all, I repeated ‘it is what it is’ in my mind, and steeled myself to resist the temptation to undertake endless “improvements” that could ultimately prove destructive. (Not without justification have I been accused of overthinking). 

The work pictured here is an exception. With the clarity afforded by time and distance, I simply felt I could do better and am substantially repainting it. The painting has a way to go, but hopefully I’m still on schedule and haven’t condemned it to the art scrapheap.

Backstories opens on 21 July. The opening event is on Saturday 24 July from 2 - 4 pm and the exhibition runs to 7 August. Further information will follow shortly. 

In the meantime, please save the date!

Pictured top: progress view of The Sea She Saw, acrylic on linen, 40.5 x 30.5 cm. 

Thursday, July 1, 2021

20 Australian Art Blogs & Websites

This blog, which I began in 2008, has just been included on a list of top Australian art blogs and websites. 

A big thank you to Discount Art N Craft Warehouse for 20 Australian Art Blogs & Websites You Need to Follow Now! I’m not sure if the list is in any particular order, but we come in at number 14. A link to the full list, which includes a brief overview of each site, is HERE

Pictured top: Studio portrait, 2020. Photo credit: Shane Jones