Deborah Halpern

Strange Creatures From a Phenomenal Planet

November 7 - November 21 2015

For the last thirty years I have endeavoured to create work that will inspire, delight and surprise. In the past I have explored form and colour using clay which becomes ceramic, wax which becomes bronze, fibreglass, as well as paint and ink on canvas and paper. Now I am intrigued by the delicious fluidity of form and the intensity of colour that manifests in hot glass; fused, applied, blown.

This exhibition includes sculptures on an intimate human scale and glass works for the wall. I am also using glass to create the surface of these recent sculptures bringing a heightened intensity between the shape and skin of the work.

My relationship to the world is multi-faceted. I am filled with wonder by the extraordinary natural world and I am equally inspired by the exponentially progressing world of ‘tech’ in which we find ourselves. Space exploration ‘blows my mind’, as does ontological enquiries into the nature of being and existence.

The works I have created for this exhibition are peopled by unusual creatures and other diverse entities. They are all related in some way, as are we all on this small, precious planet spinning in an infinite universe.”    Deborah Halpern, October 2015

The wonder and delight that Halpern translates into exuberant, fanciful artforms are doubtlessly amplified by the environment in which she creates. Light suffuses her enormous studio in Warrandyte, Victoria. What she describes as “a big glass box” looks out onto gardens and bushland with views of the Yarra River beyond. “There is a real sense of abundance and abandon surrounding me here,” muses Halpern. “I would say it does influence the works I make.”

Nestled in a gorge, Warrandyte’s hills and rivers were once rich in gold and the area’s untrammelled beauty attracted the establishment of artist colonies in the early 20th century. It was here Halpern grew up and she remembers “making stuff” from clay at the Potter’s Cottage, where her mother was a founding member. Her uncle Stanislaw Halpern also worked there emulating the folk pottery of his Polish homeland. Halpern cites that Stanislaw’s small ceramic sculptures with their loose, painterly dabs of colour were a major influence on her subsequent oeuvre and attitude to art. They promoted an abiding excitement in the potentiality of colour.

Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi’s fantastical Park Güell in Barcelona and the surrealism of French sculptor Niki de Saint Phalle demonstrated that working in the ceramic medium could be just as vital and adventurous as any other. Experimentation and the painstaking acquisition of the necessary technical skills enabled Halpern to eventually realise her dreams of monumental, ceramic-tiled sculptures. The colossal, ten metre high Angel that was originally commissioned for the moat in front of the National Gallery of Victoria is a renowned example. Three years in the making, the sculpture was built around a steel armature with concrete sprayings forming the flesh upon which hand-glazed and then kiln-fired ceramic tiles were assembled, via a cherry picker, to depict a multitude of fantasy images.

By necessity, Halpern’s present body of work is on a much smaller and more intimate scale. The sculptures’ surfaces and the various wall-mounted and suspended pieces now express her fascination in the properties and possibilities of glass to express the inherent interconnectedness of all things in both the material and abstract worlds.

Halpern’s work is featured in the following collections: Aichi Arts Centre, Aichi Prefecture, Japan; Art Gallery of Western Australia; Artbank; Australian National University, Canberra; Australian National Gallery, Canberra; Ballarat Fine Art Gallery; Box Hill College of T.A.F.E; City of Frankston; City of Yarra; Council of Adult Education; Diners Club International; Geelong Art Gallery; Gold Coast City Gallery; Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne; Melbourne University; National Australia Bank; National Gallery of Victoria; Osaka Sculpture Park, Japan; Queensland Art Gallery; Queensland University of Technology; Shepparton Art Gallery; Southgate, Melbourne; University of New South Wales; University of Southern Queensland; Victorian Ceramic Group; Victorian State Craft.

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