The Finkelstein Files: In My Room

“Mother says there are locked rooms inside all women; kitchen of lust, bedroom of grief, bathroom of apathy.”

– from ‘The House’ by Warsan Shire

In My Room is the telling title of Helen Gory’s newest body of works – at once an invitation and a provocation. Strongly symbolist in nature and style, she has created a blueprint that challenges the viewer to encroach on her personal space; both as audience and interrogator.

Gilt-laden images are scratched into the paper, challenging its singular appearance. I am reminded of Austrian-born artist Gustav Klimt, who once said something like ‘art is a line around your thoughts’. This idea resonates throughout Gory’s works, which are at once deeply personal and universal. Draw a line; make a point; take a stand; risk something.

Gory’s oil-stick women delve backwards into unrevealed pockets of spaces, memories compartmentalised into separate ‘rooms’. Her challenge – and ours – is to slowly, carefully unpack these subtle chimeras; expose their interior to the outer world. Woman with Leaf speaks loudest without uttering a word. Verging on naïve, these night-shade women hover between darkness and illumination. Their talisman tools may well be props; striking a pose that both regales and invites us inside.

Helen Gory opened her own contemporary commercial art gallery in 1995. Helen Gory Galerie was a pioneer in supporting emerging practitioners, many of whom have gone on to become Australia’s leading visual artists. In 2008, Gory closed her gallery to pursue a long-unfulfilled desire to make art.

Golden Bars, 2018

Paper Collage and Oil Stick on Art Paper, 140 x 110cm.

It’s a Challenge, 2018

Paper Collage and Oil Stick on Art Paper, 140 x 110cm.

Walking Back To Happiness, 2018

Paper Collage and Oil Stick on Art Paper, 140 x 110cm.

Gory’s work is best described as visual stories where humour and joy sit side-by-side with the shadows that they cast. She is concerned with uncovering what is hidden, with the act of revelation. Through the repeated motifs of fragmented body parts, women, and elements of the natural world, her often-surreal images speak of desire, longing, angst and the power of transformation.

(det.) The Leaf, 2018, Oil Paint on Paper, 109 x 67cm

The Leaf, 2018

Oil Paint on Paper, 109 x 67cm

Gory works across various medium to construct these visual narratives. Her first primary medium, collage, allows her to deconstruct, fragment, (dis)connect and reassemble, the process of creation a metaphor for the complexity and layering of human experience.

More recently, Gory has segued from collage to painting and drawing. Using oil stick, graphite and charcoal in scribbling and scratching-like motions, she adds/removes layers in a repetitive act of mark-making that is intrinsic to the interior world she is revealing.

The Pods, 2018

Oil Paint on Paper, 109 x 67cm

(det.) The Pods, 2018

Oil Paint on Paper, 109 x 67cm

The Scarf, 2018

Oil Paint on Paper, 109 x 67cm

The Scarf, 2018

Oil Paint on Paper, 109 x 67cm

Last weekend to see In My Room!

Head to: Backwoods Gallery, 25 Easey Street, Collingwood, VIC, Australia (map)


The Finkelstein Files: Sculpting Scenes with Deborah Halpern

If a Melbournian like myself, the iconic Angel signalled the entrance to the NGV as the tram trundled toward what I came to think of my second home by the mid 1980’s. Now situated along the banks of the Yarra river, opposite the ‘hill’ near the city end of the Birrarung Marr footbridge and has now become a landmark for a new generation. Artist Deborah Halpern lives in Warrandyte, with her own view of the Yarra River. Growing up, she remembers the fun of having a swim on the way home from school with friends and sliding down the slopes near the footy ground until she was completely and joyously covered in mud.  She also remembers the early days of the Potters Cottage (her mother was a founding member) where as a very young child she made and sold her first works.  She learnt from her mother, very early in life, “that you just make stuff and sell it”.  There was never any question that was what she would do in life.


The Finkelstein Files: What attracted you to mosaics and ceramics? Deborah Halpern: Well I’m not really attracted to mosaics. I know that sounds completely bizarre but I’ll give you the short version of trajectory. In my upbringing, both of my parents were ceramicists and I grew up surrounded by potters so I was always making colourful, whimsical and funky pieces of pottery. But as a potter I was always restricted to a certain size. Even when I was making things in a modular manner, I was still working with specific sizes. When the National Gallery of  Victoria asked me to make a sculpture for the gallery I had to look at how to make a really big piece. (see 1988 video here). I thought I had to make a form and paint it, and then I thought paint doesn’t have the same quality a ceramic glaze has. From that point on, I started to think, maybe rather than have a painted ceramic tile, I could just make up the picture from coloured tiles. Then it went from coloured tiles making up the form to what we would now call mosaic even though I’ve been resisting this word for a long time.


TFF: Why have you been resisting mosaic? DH: I think the mosaics I have seen in Australia have been mainly done by amateurs and I don’t mean amateurs are bad, but they are people who are thinking of it as more of a hobby. In my studio, I have my team. We are so precise, you wouldn’t imagine the level of skill required to get these works done. I suppose there’s a whole part of me which says please don’t call me a mosaic artist. The mosaic is really a means to an end. However, having said that, I am now surrendering to this being a really interesting area of study.


TFF: How have you seen your works change? DH: I notice now that I’m working with glass that there are so many different colours and textures to play with that it’s almost like being a pointillist. But instead of putting a dab of paint on a painting, I’m actually placing a dab of colour onto a sculpture.

TFF: Where do you normally look for inspiration? DH: The people whom I’m really responding to at the moment are people who haven’t been at the forefront of my mind before. People like Joan Miro and Gustav KlimtThe works of Klimt I used to think were too much and over the top … but funnily enough it’s really having an impact on me right now. For example, the way he puts his peaceful figures in the middle of this fantastic over-the-top design with colour … the contrast really represents life as it really is for me.

As an artist, I’ve been working for a long time now and I see artists who are doing works that are a commentary on something, or coming from an academic point of view, and I look at those works and sometimes I may not understand them or I may not respond to them. I think there must be something going on that I don’t know anything about. And so I look at those works and I have respect for it, and then I look at my work and I think, well the work I make is something which is truly spontaneous.



TFF: Do you think this influences the type of person who collects your sculptures? DH: Sometimes you might have a work that is commenting on what’s happening on this planet and it’s really powerful and confronting. I think that’s really valid and all credit goes to that work, but I think people can buy those works and think that by having something like that in their space equals making a difference when it doesn’t necessarily. I guess we just need to be mindful that making a difference in reality and making a difference superficially are really two very different things.


For more insights into Deborah’s practice view MossgreensThrough the Forest video here.

See Deborah’s AUSiMED artwork here.


The Finkelstein Files – The Guts & the Gory

Helen Gory has long held a fascination for me, firstly as a gallerist, well-regarded for her sharp eye, can-do hands-on approach to people & the selling of artworks and more recently, as an effervescent powerhouse of a woman – a surprise package. Happily mentor, art adviser & friend all rolled into one, Gory has garnered a loyal following over her two decade long commitment to celebrating & championing some of Melbourne’s brightest talent.


Artist Helen Gory and creative, Adrian Elton at the JCP Studios for THROUGH THESE PAPER WALLS exhibition opening last month.

Her artists’ and buyers alike are dealing with the loss they may feel akin to losing a dear friend upon the closure of the Prahran gallery space mid 2013 to join forces with Dianne Tanzer under the amusing banner of THIS IS NO FANTASY, inspired by the neon-lit truisms of famed American artist Jenny Holzer. This relationship was well-received last year as the logical if not market-savvy acknowledgement of the shifting of gallery models which has long been hotly debated and bandied about town for the past few years in earnest.

Gory had already entrusted the daily operations to then gallery manager Nicola Stein, now director, feeling as though the mantle had been passed safely to another to continue the path Gory has paved. Opportunities and challenges aside, Gory has quietly stepped back now entirely. It seemed an obvious choice.


‘How many gallerists are needed to change a light bulb’ begs the age-old joke?  If your name is Helen Gory, well – just one. She is a do-er, a maker. It’s no surprise that she has emerged metamorphosis-like from the cocoon into the light, able to spread her wings outward into full flight.

I am for one, uber excited to be present at the first of what I feel certain will be the beginning of a natural unfurling of a talented artist who has jumped the fence from seller to maker. Interestingly, her vision is a s broad as it is defined as far as her influences are concerned.


Dignity, 2014


‘Even though I’ve surrounded myself with art for the best part of 20 years, I’ve only just begun to create my own art. I cried the very first time I sat at my new workspace. I cried because for the first time in my life I actually made the time to make art. I cried because I don’t know why I waited so long to start. Perhaps all this will be revealed another time in another exhibition or perhaps it just wont be necessary any longer.’ – Helen Gory



‘The images are wishful, improbable, overwhelmingly busy, or minimal. They can be anything. I’m happy if they are emotionally evocative, tell a story or totally ambiguous. Sometimes subtle and sometimes in your face, secretive and political. I want to keep exploring. My real world and my pretend world are merging. Fantasy and reality, injustice and cruelty, pure love and joy. I can find them all in the images, scraps, tears and cuts I make. I can make my own world and shut out the real world.”

‘I like that I can see where the page is torn and the image cut, it’s not slick and it’s not perfection. I keep the works fairly small to a medium size mainly due to the constraints of the paper. It’s the spontaneity of the process and the rawness of the paper combined with the quirkiness of the content that seduce the viewer into looking intently at the final artwork.’


Hang the Rat, 2014


A Fine Balance, 2013

‘I’ve loved the manifesto of Dada since I read about it as a young teenager. I don’t believe that I really understood its underground nature and subversive attitude but it spoke to me nevertheless.Moreover the art of Art Spiegelman, Egon Schiele, Hannah Hoch, Gustav Klimt, Francisco Goya, Emil Nolde, Diane Arbus has forever haunted me. Without being consciously aware when I started collage two years ago, these former influences of my teenage youth are shaping what I’m creating today. It’s like breathing. I feel utterly natural doing it. I recently read that a majority of female artists of the early 20th century chose collage as their preferred medium of art and so it seems I’ve joined the ranks.’

‘My daughter came up with the title, ‘through these paper walls’. It’s from a poem we can’t locate nor recall its author. It’s so apt. The medium of paper and the walls that I’ve finally broken down and braved to begin doing art.’

The Curtain, 2012

The Curtain, 2012

28. walking back to happiness

Walking Back to Happiness, 2013


Party Room, 2012, analogue collage, 55 x38cm.

Party Room, 2012

‘Secrets, desires, absurd ideas of woman and who they should be, how they should look, sex, politics, fashion, social injustices. I feel helpless to do anything so I let out my frustrations and anger here in these works. And I try not to be repetitive. Lou Reed once said “why would I want to play the same song the same way every time I performed live, I’d rather cut off my toes.” I like his sense of drastic.’

‘Collage allows me the freedom I need to express myself. I’m here and I’m excited and happy to be creating. I don’t want to stop. As my son once told me, Hokusai didn’t start his art career until he was 75 years of age. So I’ve started, and I hope to continue.’

Somehow, I think she will.

TFF. xx

Through these paper walls was recently exhibited @ JCP Studios in Cremorne. If you missed viewing the works in person & would like to see more, please contact the artist for enquiries: