For background on the artist and works, see below.
About the Artist
‘Immediate experiences; vicarious impressions. Some stick more than others. These are my images from experience and impression.’
– Deborah Barton, artist’s statement, February 2009
Enigmatic images explore the dynamics of connection between individuals, in Deborah Barton’s new series of works, on show until May 20 at the MVH Gallery. The artist offers only a limited insight in her artist’s statement – leaving interpretation wide open to the viewer, their own experience and memories. In fact, there are probably as many interpretations of her work as there are viewers…
The intriguingly titled I came to your party (a head start on the drinking) leads this show of larger works, and signals a shift to contemporary observation compared with her last exhibition (As in dream) which drew more on memory and a sense of nostalgic past.
In some ways, it harks back to her first post-graduation exhibition The Dunedin Portraits, where she captured the relationship between two or more individuals in each work, and the minutiae of their environment. But in Mood Lighting, No 1, Animal Nature or He’s playing my favourite song, there’s an edginess in her careful observation, a dark humour that draws the viewer in, slowly revealing small discoveries. Other images suggest youthful memory but from a contemporary standpoint, like Teenage Dream House or School Fair.
Those who know Deborah will recognise her figure in many of these works, but she has used herself as a model rather than it being expressly self-portrait. It adds a very intimate view, something the process of printmaking underlines with its intricate workmanship and subtle, often mysterious expression. Is Deborah, the station, a self-portrait, a career statement or a memory? It stretches back into earlier works, iconic, yet has a dynamic that’s taking her ever forward.
The title work, I came to your party (a head start on the drinking), was selected for the recent prestigious Pacific Rim International Print Exhibition at the University of Canterbury – Deborah was one of only 4 New Zealand artists chosen from 400 entries across Asia, Australasia, the USA and the Pacific, including very prominent printmakers. It continues her string of notable achievements – the latest an invitation to create a work for the Muka Youth Prints in 2009. This is a printmaker very connected with the history of the craft and one who’s clearly going a long way in its future.
Deborah Barton’s latest work, as in dream, presents an ambiguous dreamscape of memory, suggestions of a glimpsed past in the landscape of our lives, in limited edition burnished aquatints. Blended facts, realities and fictions ultimately leave questions unanswered in a subdued, shifting narrative. Many of the works seem to unlock childhood for the viewer, but the artist prefers not to explain too much and let people discover their own experience, ideas and personal stories in the work.
The experience of being a child is accessible to us all if we allow ourselves to remember that once, that was us, she says. Adults forget that the child version of us is still us. That child knew a lot, and had good instincts and it is almost as though we learn to forget that intuitive knowledge as we grow older.
Figures and shapes emerge from memory and mood, defined with a printmaker’s delicacy but never overstated.
The series as in dream includes 14 single plate burnished aquatints (in very limited editions of 10) priced at $300 ($420 framed) and two triptychs, created from multiples of the individual images. Some editions have now sold out. For further images in the series please email Barbara Speedy at
The new exhibition runs until late May 2009 at our specialist printmakers venue, at the stylish Marlborough Vintners Hotel Gallery and Restaurant, 190 Rapaura Road, Marlborough, in the heart of the vineyards, about 10 minutes drive from Blenheim and 5 minutes from Marlborough Airport. It is open to the public every day and during restaurant opening hours. Tel 0064 3 572 5094.
More About the Artist
Deborah Barton exhibits around New Zealand, and been included in several important Award exhibitions including the recent NZ Painting and Printmaking Award and Norsewear Art Award shows. After early studies in Marlborough, she graduated Bachelor of Fine Arts from Otago Polytechnic in 2002 where she studied with renowned printmaker Marilynn Webb. Born and raised in Marlborough, at the top of the South Island, she has lived in Wellington for about four years, producing the work on her own studio press, and is now based in Wanganui. Her work is held in collections around New Zealand and overseas.
Followers of this young artist will see a considerable evolution from her previous shows, more focused on mood and exploring the possibilities of the medium.
Whereas her early work was focused on portraiture and capturing relationships between people, she is more circumspect about the inspiration for her recent printmaking. Her 2005 and 2006 work features landscape, endless skies, and the natural world, but underlying this is a strong suggestion parallels between these and mood, a feeling of memory and connections through time.
Many works feature clouds in a meditative way we look at clouds but sometimes we’re not seeing them, we are contemplating our lives. Barton’s work is also about the viewer’s history: the image is the point at which the two stories intersect.