Sunday, February 25, 2018


Leaves of Absence, artist book, 2017
 31 archival pigment prints in Solander box 32.5 (H) x 25.5 (W) x 4 cm (D)
Edition: 10 & one artist proof

The annual Melbourne Art Book Fair at the National Gallery of Victoria is nearly upon us. 

As part of their participation in Melbourne Art Book Fair 2018, Regional Arts Australia are hosting a panel discussion with three artists who work in regional Australia. It will take place on Friday 16 March from 2.30 - 3.45 pm. 

I’m delighted to have been invited to sit on the panel, which will discuss artistic practice, publications and the benefits and challenges of working regionally.

The panel will be facilitated by Mary Jane Warfield, Regional Arts Fund Manager/Regional Arts Australia. My fellow speakers are Lindy Schneider and Angela Rivas. 

Among the publications on display will be Leaves of Absence, (2017), the first of my artist books to draw its subject matter entirely from my regional base in the Victorian Goldfields.

For further information, go HERE.

Melbourne Art Book Fair 2018 runs from Friday 16 March - Sunday 18 March.

To view the full program, go HERE.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Fallen Women

Leaf-by-leaf views of Fallen Women, a sixteen page zine created for last Sunday's superlative Sticky Institute Festival of the Photocopier Zine Fair (see previous three posts).

In Fallen Women, the secret of the ghostly Shadow Women of Newstead Forest is at least revealed. The zine is a signed and numbered limited edition of 100 and retails for $6.00.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Alice's Wonderland page by page

No question about it - for MWP, our eight-page mini-zine Alice's Wonderland was the runaway success of last Sunday's Sticky Institute Festival of the Photocopier Zine Fair. For those who were unable to join us, here it is. The zine is dedicated to Gracia Haby and Louise Jennison, who are directly responsible for bringing Alice into our lives. (See Blog Post Thursday, February 8, or click HERE).

Alice's Wonderland is a signed, limited edition of 100 and retails for $4.00.

Monday, February 12, 2018

FOTP2018: It's a wrap

L-R: myself, Gracia Haby, Theo Strasser and
Louise Jennison

In the blinking of an eye, or so it seems, the Sticky Institute Festival of the Photocopier Zine Fair is over for another year. As always, it was a blast, and brilliantly organised by Sticky Institute. We simply don’t know how they do it and make it all appear so effortless. Shane Jones and I met up with a steady stream of terrific people and couldn’t have wished for finer zine stall neighbours than Gracia Haby, Louise Jennison and Theo Strasser.

Directly following is an overview, as seen from the Moth Woman Press stand and environs.

Heartiest thanks to the hordes of people who attended and to our magnanimous hosts, Sticky Institute and Melbourne Town Hall. 

See you all again in 2019.

From top: zines by Theo Strasser, Gracia Haby, Louise Jennison
and Moth Woman Press

Detail of the Moth Woman Press stand

Theo, Louise and Gracia

L-R: Elaine Haby, Peter Haby and Gracia Haby

Maria Colaidis and Theo Strasser

Monica Syrette and Des Cowley

L-R: myself, Priscilla Ambrosini and Shane Jones

L-R: Pictured with Mister Evergreen, Tyler and Tyson, who filmed
a brief segment on our MWP zines for a forthcoming documentary

Sunday, February 11, 2018

FOTP2018 Stowaway

Alice’s plans to join us for this afternoon’s Sticky Institute Festival of the Photocopier Zine Fair at Melbourne Town Hall are about to be thwarted. She’ll be there in spirit, however, in her very first zine, Alice’s Wonderland (made with a little help from me). 

I’ll be at the Moth Woman Press stall from 12 - 5 pm with that and other MWP publications, feeling mighty thankful that the heatwave has ended. If you're in the area, do drop by and say hello.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

FOTP2018 #3: Alice's Wonderland

I have to admit that the third of three zines set to debut at next Sunday's Festival of the Photocopier is the one that's closest to my heart. Followers of my Art Blog will be aware that late last year my partner Shane Jones and I adopted a rescue kitten.

We're forever indebted to our friends and fellow zinesters Gracia Haby and Louise Jennison (who have a furry household of their own, and regularly foster cats for the RSPCA) for rescuing the kitten now known as Alice, her brother and their father from a tightly taped box with no air holes and taking them to the Lost Cat's Home.

The rest of the little family were adopted fairly soon, but it seemed that nobody wanted Alice. Gracia helpfully posted a photo of the orphan on social media, and I found I couldn't get that little face with its wide, inquisitive eyes and glorious Groucho Marx moustache out of my head. Minutes after meeting her for the first time, we recognised her zest for life and a gift for comedy to equal the great Groucho's.

Despite a rocky start in life, Alice finds everything in her world simply wonderful. And so a humble duster becomes a much-loved toy (a far more durable one than her more conventional toys) and a weather-beaten set of wind chimes a musical punching bag.

Alice's Wonderland will be documented more fully in a future post. But there's no need to wait until then. If you're in Melbourne this coming Sunday, 11 February, join the throng at Melbourne Town Hall for the annual Sticky Institute Festival of the Photocopier Zine Fair and grab yourself a copy. The fair runs between midday and 5 pm. 

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

FOTP2018 #2: The leaves, like women, interchange

This, the second of three zines created for the 2018 Sticky Institute Festival of the Photocopier Zine Fair, (aka FOTP2018) marks my fourth “collaboration” with American poet Emily Dickinson. (The other three, Who are You?, Alabaster Chambers and Her own Society are HERE and HERE.)

In our latest zine, Dickinson’s short poem, The leaves, like women, interchange, is matched with seven Shadow Women of Newstead Forest, adding a layer of meaning to the imagery that isn’t too far removed from its original context. 

The new zines, together with a selection from our back catalogue, will be available at the Moth Woman Press Stand.

2018 Festival of the Photocopier Zine Fair
Melbourne Town Hall
Sunday 11 February 12 - 5 pm.

Monday, February 5, 2018

2018 Festival of the Photocopier Zine Fair

It’s that time of year again. The legendary Sticky Institute Festival of the Photocopier Zine Fair is less than a week away and here at Moth Woman Press we’re all abuzz putting the finishing touches to three new publications. This is one of them.

As outlined in our last post, Fallen Women has a more complex structure to our more familiar eight-page mini-zines. Its sixteen pages (fifteen illustrations in full colour, prefaced by a brief introductory essay) enable us to focus in more depth than ever before on the folkloric Shadow Women of Newstead Forest.

The Sticky Institute Festival of the Photocopier Zine Fair takes place at Melbourne Town Hall next Sunday, 11 February and runs from 12 - 5 pm.

For a full rundown of Festival of the Photocopier events, go HERE:

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

A New Zine for a New Year (progress view)

Happy New Year and welcome back to Moth Woman Press.

I spent part of my first day back at work experimenting with a new zine structure. At 16 pages, it's a more complicated version of the 8-page cut-and-fold structure used for many MWP mini-zines. After compiling the images in a grid that was created in the Strip Designer app, I made a few photocopies in black and white so I could practice on them until I knew what I was doing.

I have renowned book artist Alisa Golden to thank for the template of what she calls a GuestX Book.

My 8-page zines are constructed from single A4 sheets. In this case, it was necessary to increase the sheet size to A3, lest the individual zine pages be too small. Aside from having to reposition two of the images so that the back cover art is in the correct place, it didn't turn out too badly, although I think I'll need to revisit Alisa's step-by-step instructions for awhile until this new method of construction becomes second nature.

The images in Fallen Women are an extension and development of the imagery in the 2017 artist book, Leaves of Absence. The zine takes its title from my solo show at Tacit Contemporary Art in November/December 2017 and some, but not all, of the leaf art is based on images that were part of that show.

All going well, Fallen Women will burst into glorious leafy colour at the 2018 Sticky Institute Festival of the Photocopier Zine Fair on February 11. Although that date will come around quickly enough, there's still time to tweak the new publication a little more - for example, I'm considering the addition of a brief introductory paragraph.

In a year where there's already much to look forward to, it feels like 2018 is off to a promising start.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Tidings of comfort and joy

To lovers of book art far and wide, Moth Women Press wishes you all the very best for this Christmas Season and the year ahead.

Detail of our Christmas tree, Ballarat, 2017

* * * * * * * * * * 

For Christmas week: a story by O. HENRY


by O. Henry

In a small part of the city west of Washington Square, the streets have gone wild. They turn in different directions. They are broken into small pieces called “places.” One street goes across itself one or two times. A painter once discovered something possible and valuable about this street. Suppose a painter had some painting materials for which he had not paid. Suppose he had no money. Suppose a man came to get the money. The man might walk down that street and suddenly meet himself coming back, with- out having received a cent! This part of the city is called Greenwich Village. And to old Greenwich Village the painters soon came. Here they found rooms they like, with good light and at a low cost.

Sue and Johnsy lived at the top of a building with three floors. One of these young women came from Maine, the other from California. They had met at a restaurant on Eighth Street. There they discovered that they liked the same kind of art, the same kind of food, and the same kind of clothes. So they decided to live and work together.

That was in the spring.

Toward winter a cold stranger entered Greenwich Village. No one could see him. He walked around touching one person here and another there with his icy fingers. He was a bad sickness. Doctors called him Pneumonia. On the east side of the city he hurried, touching many people; but in the narrow streets of Greenwich Village he did not move so quickly.

Mr. Pneumonia was not a nice old gentleman. A nice old gentleman would not hurt a weak little woman from California. But Mr. Pneumonia touched Johnsy with his cold fingers. She lay on her bed almost without moving, and she looked through the window at the wall of the house next to hers.

One morning the busy doctor spoke to Sue alone in the hall, where Johnsy could not hear.

“She has a very small chance,” he said. “She has a chance, if she wants to live. If people don’t want to live, I can’t do much for them. Your little lady has decided that she is not going to get well. Is there something that is troubling her?”

“She always wanted to go to Italy and paint a picture of the Bay of Naples,” said Sue.

“Paint! Not paint. Is there anything worth being troubled about? A man?”

“A man?” said Sue. “Is a man worth—No, doctor. There is not a man.”

“It is weakness,” said the doctor. “I will do all I know how to do. But when a sick person begins to feel that he’s going to die, half my work is useless. Talk to her about new winter clothes. If she were interested in the future, her chances would be better.”

After the doctor had gone, Sue went into the workroom to cry.

Then she walked into Johnsy’s room. She carried some of her painting materials, and she was singing.

Johnsy lay there, very thin and very quiet. Her face was turned toward the window. Sue stopped singing, thinking that Johnsy was asleep.

Sue began to work. As she worked she heard a low sound, again and again. She went quickly to the bedside.

Johnsy’s eyes were open wide. She was looking out the window and counting—counting back.

“Twelve,” she said; and a little later, “Eleven”; and then, “Ten,” and, “Nine”; and then, “Eight,” and, “Seven,” almost together.

Sue looked out the window. What was there to count? There was only the side wall of the next house, a short distance away. The wall had no window. An old, old tree grew against the wall. The cold breath of winter had already touched it. Almost all its leaves had fallen from its dark branches.

“What is it, dear?” asked Sue.

“Six,” said Johnsy, in a voice still lower. “They’re falling faster now. Three days ago there were almost a hundred. It hurt my head to count them. But now it’s easy. There goes another one. There are only five now.”

“Five what, dear? Tell your Sue.”

“Leaves. On the tree. When the last one falls, I must go, too. I’ve known that for three days. Didn’t the doctor tell you?”

“Oh, I never heard of such a thing,” said Sue. “It doesn’t have any sense in it. What does an old tree have to do with you? Or with your getting well? And you used to love that tree so much. Don’t be a little fool. The doctor told me your chances for getting well. He told me this morning. He said you had very good chances! Try to eat a little now. And then I’ll go back to work. And then I can sell my picture, and then I can buy something more for you to eat to make you strong.”

“You don’t have to buy anything for me,” said Johnsy. She still looked out the window. “There goes another. No, I don’t want any- thing to eat. Now there are four. I want to see the last one fall before night. Then I’ll go, too.”

“Johnsy, dear,” said Sue, “will you promise me to close your eyes and keep them closed? Will you promise not to look out the window until I finish working? I must have this picture ready tomorrow. I need the light; I can’t cover the window.”

“Couldn’t you work in the other room?” asked Johnsy coldly.

“I’d rather be here by you,” said Sue. “And I don’t want you to look at those leaves.”

“Tell me as soon as you have finished,” said Johnsy. She closed her eyes and lay white and still. “Because I want to see the last leaf fall. I have done enough waiting. I have done enough thinking. I want to go sailing down, down, like one of those leaves.”

“Try to sleep,” said Sue. “I must call Behrman to come up here. I want to paint a man in this picture, and I’ll make him look like Behrman. I won’t be gone a minute. Don’t try to move till I come back.”

Old Behrman was a painter who lived on the first floor of their house. He was past sixty. He had had no success as a painter. For forty years he had painted, without ever painting a good picture. He had always talked of painting a great picture, a masterpiece, but he had never yet started it.

He got a little money by letting others paint pictures of him. He drank too much. He still talked of his great masterpiece. And he believed that it was his special duty to do everything possible to help Sue and Johnsy.

Sue found him in his dark room, and she knew that he had been drinking. She could smell it. She told him about Johnsy and the leaves on the vine. She said that she was afraid that Johnsy would indeed sail down, down like the leaf. Her hold on the world was growing weaker.

Old Behrman shouted his anger over such an idea.

“What!” he cried. “Are there such fools? Do people die because leaves drop off a tree? I have not heard of such a thing. No, I will not come up and sit while you make a picture of me. Why do you allow her to think such a thing? That poor little Johnsy!”

“She is very sick and weak,” said Sue. “The sickness has put these strange ideas into her mind. Mr. Behrman, if you won’t come, you won’t. But I don’t think you’re very nice.”

“This is like a woman!” shouted Behrman. “Who said I will not come? Go. I come with you. For half an hour I have been trying to say that I will come. God! This is not any place for someone so good as Johnsy to lie sick. Some day I shall paint my masterpiece, and we shall all go away from here. God! Yes.”

Johnsy was sleeping when they went up. Sue covered the window, and took Behrman into the other room. There they looked out the win- dow fearfully at the tree. Then they looked at each other for a moment without speaking. A cold rain was falling, with a little snow in it too.

Behrman sat down, and Sue began to paint. She worked through most of the night.

In the morning, after an hour’s sleep, she went to Johnsy’s bedside. Johnsy with wide-open eyes was looking toward the window. “I want to see,” she told Sue.

Sue took the cover from the window.

But after the beating rain and the wild wind that had not stopped through the whole night, there still was one leaf to be seen against the wall. It was the last on the tree. It was still dark green near the branch. But at the edges it was turning yellow with age. There it was hanging from a branch nearly twenty feet above the ground.

“It is the last one,” said Johnsy. “I thought it would surely fall dur- ing the night. I heard the wind. It will fall today, and I shall die at the same time.”

“Dear, dear Johnsy!” said Sue. “Think of me, if you won’t think of yourself. What would I do?”

But Johnsy did not answer. The most lonely thing in the world is a soul when it is preparing to go on its far journey. The ties that held her to friendship and to earth were breaking, one by one.
The day slowly passed. As it grew dark, they could still see the leaf hanging from its branch against the wall. And then, as the night came, the north wind began again to blow. The rain still beat against the windows.

When it was light enough the next morning, Johnsy again commanded that she be allowed to see.

The leaf was still there.

Johnsy lay for a long time looking at it. And then she called to Sue, who was cooking something for her to eat.

“I’ve been a bad girl, Sue,” said Johnsy. “Something has made that last leaf stay there to show me how bad I was. It is wrong to want to die. I’ll try to eat now. But first bring me a looking-glass, so that I can see myself. And then I’ll sit up and watch you cook.”

An hour later she said, “Sue, some day I hope to paint the Bay of Naples.”

The doctor came in the afternoon. Sue followed him into the hall outside Johnsy’s room to talk to him.

“The chances are good,” said the doctor. He took Sue’s thin, shaking hand in his. “Give her good care, and she’ll get well. And now I must see another sick person in this house. His name is Behrman. A painter, I believe. Pneumonia, too. Mike is an old, weak man, and he is very ill. There is no hope for him. But we take him to the hospital today. We’ll make it as easy for him as we can.”

The next day the doctor said to Sue: “She’s safe. You have done it. Food and care now—that’s all.”

And that afternoon Sue came to the bed where Johnsy lay. She put one arm around her.

“I have something to tell you,” she said. “Mr. Behrman died of pneumonia today in the hospital. He was ill only two days. Someone found him on the morning of the first day, in his room. He was help-less with pain.”

“His shoes and his clothes were wet and as cold as ice. Everyone wondered where he had been. The night had been so cold and wild.

“And then they found some things. There was a light that he had taken outside. And there were his materials for painting. There was paint, green paint and yellow paint. And 

“Look out the window, dear, at the last leaf on the wall. Didn’t you wonder why it never moved when the wind was blowing? Oh, my dear, it is Behrman’s great masterpiece—he painted it there the night that the last leaf fell.”

* * * * * * * *

To learn about O. Henry and read more of his stories, go HERE

To read O. Henry's much-loved Christmas tale, The Gift of the Magi, visit my Art Blog HERE.

Pictured top: Deborah Klein, The Last Leaf, 2017, phemograph, 36.7 x 30 cm, edition: 20.

Friday, December 8, 2017

MEET THE ARTIST at Tacit Contemporary Art

Flashback Friday: to a blazing hot day last summer, spent gathering eucalyptus leaves from saplings in Newstead Forest. Numerous leaves from that day’s harvest were raw materials for the works in my current show, FALLEN WOMEN, at Tacit Contemporary Art. I’ll be talking about this and more, including my artist book, Leaves of Absence, the forerunner to the project, at an informal Meet the Artist event tomorrow, December 9, from 2 - 4 pm at Tacit. I hope you can join me. 
(Photo credit: Shane Jones).

Tacit Contemporary Art
312 Johnston St, Abbotsford, Vic 3067
T: 0423 323 188

Wednesday – Friday 11am–6pm
Saturday – Sunday 11am–5pm 

The exhibition is current until 17 December.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

LEAVES OF ABSENCE launch at the Melbourne Athenaeum Library

With Marguerite Brown, Manager, Print Council of Australia

Yesterday evening, after a terrific opening address by Marguerite Brown, Manager of the Print Council of Australia, followed by a few words from me, LEAVES OF ABSENCE was launched at the Melbourne Athenaeum Library. Thanks to Marguerite, the library's Business Manager Sue Westwood, librarian Tom Coleman and all who came along to toast the launch of the book, it was a truly memorable night.

Marguerite has kindly offered to send me a copy of her speech, which I will most certainly be posting in the near future. In the meantime, below is my own effort, followed by selected pictorial highlights of the launch.

I’ve long been interested in fairy tales, to the extent that several years ago, I wrote some of my own, subsequently mustering them together in a small volume titled There was once… (In fact, shortly after its publication in 2009, I gave a talk about it in this very library).

LEAVES OF ABSENCE is a very different kind of book. For one thing, it’s an artist book, limited to an edition of only 10. For another, its narrative is purely visual. Like some of the best-known fairy tales, however, it started with a journey into the woods – in the Victorian goldfields town of Newstead in June 2015, to be more precise. 

On that occasion my partner Shane Jones and I were visiting two dear friends, Leigh Hobbs and Dmetri Kakmi, who were staying there in a little cottage - also the stuff of fairy tales. After lunch, they suggested a walk. Perhaps it wasn’t quite the equivalent of that long ago boat trip on the Isis River in Oxford that the Reverend Charles Dodgson (better known as Lewis Carroll) and his friend took with Alice Liddell and her sisters, but it feels like that to me, because on that day, although I didn’t know it at the time, LEAVES OF ABSENCE was born, and with it an entirely new direction in my work.
Some months later, I made my first foray into digital prints in Not Born Digital, a Goldfields Printmakers portfolio that explored the historic connection of the Victorian Goldfields with China during the gold rushes. The portfolio was presented at IMPACT 9, the international printmaking conference at Hangzhou, China in September 2015. 

Initially I declined the invitation to participate. Aside from having no prior background in or knowledge of digital printmaking, I’m primarily interested in reclaiming women’s histories, and this was a period from which Chinese women were conspicuously absent. In 1861 Chinese immigrants made up 3.3 per cent of the Australian population. The vast majority (38,337) were men, compared to only eleven women. 

For the men, separation from their families was a source of abiding sadness. Their unjust treatment is well documented, but almost nothing is known about the women who remained in China. 

In Newstead alone, there were over 3000 Chinese miners. The Eucalyptus leaves in LEAVES OF ABSENCE were sourced there because of their significance to the project but also because of their singular shapes - in part the result of interventions by my 'insect collaborators', the Eucalyptus tip bugs. So invaluable was their contribution, they rate a special mention on the book’s colophon page.

In my work, silhouettes are principally metaphors for marginalization or invisibility. The most recent examples, some of which are on display here tonight, are hand-painted onto pressed Eucalyptus leaves that were plucked from saplings in Newstead. These are the raw material for the archival pigment prints, AKA Phemographs, in LEAVES OF ABSENCE

The enchanting fairy tale films of German born silhouette animation pioneer Lotte Reiniger (1889-1981) are a key influence on all my work with silhouettes. Influences entirely specific to this project include early photography and silent film. Contrary to popular belief, not all of the first moving images were in black and white. In many cases, a series of coloured filters were applied, usually to indicate mood, while other directors, including one of the masters of early film, Georges Melies, employed artists, usually teams of women, to painstakingly hand colour his films frame by frame.

The seemingly obvious links to the Chinese traditions of paper cuts and shadow puppetry in LEAVES OF ABSENCE were, at least at first, a case of serendipity. My initial research included a study of historic Chinese women’s hairstyles. Reduced to shadow forms, however, the women could equally be from any place or time, including the present. 

After that first visit to Newstead, I was to venture into the woods many more times, both literally and figuratively, and, much like a character from a fairy tale, I sometimes lost my way. Despite straying from the path on several occasions, however, I never met any truly big bad wolves. In fact, I encountered some wonderful people, as well a team of creative insects, who helped me on my way.

'A fairy tale ending' is popular term for a happy ending - although many of those ancient tales were very dark and ended badly. Not so this story. A number of the people from the journey that started in Newstead are here tonight and I'm grateful to the Melbourne Athenaeum Library for giving me this opportunity to say thank you - beginning with Leigh, Dmetri and my partner, Shane, who have been there from the very beginning.

Margeurite Brown, thank you so much for that fantastic opening address. Thanks also to Cathy Leahy, for your words of encouragement when the project was very much in its fledgling stages and to my dear friends Gracia Haby and Louise Jennison for your sage advice, support and friendship. Thank you to artist Sophia Szilagyi for introducing me to master printer Luke Ingram, who printed the images in LEAVES OF ABSENCE and taught me such a lot besides. Without Luke, I very much doubt if this work would have come to fruition. Thank you, Tim Gresham for technical aid. Thanks to Jimmy Tang at Whiteslaw Bindery. Keith Lawrence and Tim Bateson from Tacit Contemporary Art have also been enormously supportive – thanks, guys. (A substantial amount of the work I made after completing the book will be shown at Tacit from Wednesday, 29 November - Sunday 17 December). Thank you to the Melbourne Athenaeum Library for having us. Huge thanks to Business Manager Sue Westwood for initiating the acquisition of LEAVES OF ABSENCE and for inviting me to be the Melbourne Athenaeum Library artist-in-residence during Melbourne Rare Book Week in 2018.

And finally - before this starts to sound like one of those interminable Oscars speeches - thank you all very much indeed for coming tonight.

Hand painted eucalyptus leaves, the raw material for the images

LEAVES OF ABSENCE with selected page views

With Shane Jones

Introductory remarks by Sue Westwood

Marguerite Brown delivers her opening address

...followed by my own response