text: Scott Rothstein
Australia-based artist Deborah Klein is a painter, a printmaker and a book artist. Her work is diverse, deeply informed by an eclectic range of influences.
Recently, Klein has been exploring the possibilities of silhouette. These images are direct and striking with an economy to the rendering that reveals only what is essential. Most are black and white, but at times Klein adds a bit of color, which defuses the strong contrast of the picture.
Writing about silhouette, Klein explains: “The primary inspirations for the imagery were the exquisite stop-motion silhouettes created by animation pioneer Lotte Reiniger (1899-1981). Her fairy tale films, which I first saw as a child in the days of black and white television, were my introduction to silhouettes. At the time, I thought I had never seen anything quite so magical. I still do.”
While many artists have explored the use of silhouette in their work, Klein has found a way to personalize and claim ownership of the form. A human head is usually the base of the image, topped by an animal, plant, or landscape. The different elements become one, suggesting a narrative and inviting speculation.
Klein established Moth Woman Press to present her limited edition books. It is in this format that the silhouettes are the most intriguing. In one series for the exhibition, “Tall Tales,” graceful images are elongated and revealed over several accordion pages. The figures seem organic, as if they naturally evolved like a flower growing in rich soil.
In the artist’s statement for this show, Klein states:
“The bound concertina books that dominate my solo exhibition “Tall Tales” are one-of-a-kind and open vertically. The drawings and hand lettering inside are ink and acrylic paint on handmade Khadi paper. Although they evoke fairy tales and folk tales, aside from their covers and title pages, the books contain no texts. There was simply no room for the thousand words that each picture is worth.”
In contrast to the stark white paper used in the “Tall Tales,”,“The Secret Sites of the Shadow Women” book is painted on maps. This work was conceived as part of the Sketchbook Project, organized by the Brooklyn Art Library in New York. While the rectangular format of the book is more conventional than Klein’s long vertical works, this piece is by no means less compelling. The narrative in this volume is enhanced by the relationship between figure and surface. As implied by the title, each page reads like a mystery novel. It is as if Klein is giving us clues to meaning that will be exposed when the puzzle of the page is solved.
All of Deborah Klein’s silhouettes have a heightened sense of elegance. With a graceful and controlled hand, she reveals a visual world that is seductive, a place grounded in things real and things imagined.