Deborah Halpern

Deborah Halpern’s work is underpinned by a love of outsider art and material experimentation. Her recognisable visual language, which includes flattened perspective, curiously shaped figures and animals and a brilliant use of contrasting colour, connects with her audience in an intuitive and playful manner. Her process sometimes includes initial drawings or the production of maquettes, other  times she works directly with wire mesh, shaping and forming her figures before fibreglassing, then covering the surface of each work with hand-cut tiles to complete the vibrant exterior in her characteristic and singular style. 

Since the 1980s, Deborah Halpern has continually embraced and explored new mediums. Her practice continues to expand and now encompasses painting, drawing, sculpting, ceramics, printmaking, glass and bronze. She explores recurring and new iconography in her distinct style. 

Halpern redefined the public’s relationship with art, particularly in Melbourne, when she completed vibrant, engaging and much-loved public sculptures for the National Gallery of Victoria and the City of Melbourne. Angel, 1988, was installed in the moat in front of the National Gallery of Victoria International in 1989, where it remained until it was relocated to Birrarung Marr in 1996. Angel’s new location has fostered a renewed appreciation for her work. Ophelia, 1992, located on Southbank was chosen as Tourism Victoria’s ‘Face of Melbourne’ in 1996. A large-scale commission for the National Palace Museum in Taibao City, Chiayi, Taiwan was completed in 2020. She was the subject of the survey exhibition Deborah Halpern: Angel at Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia in 2006. Halpern’s versatility as an artist can be seen in her work for the Australian Ballet and Victorian Opera and includes set and costume design. 

In recognition for her services to the arts, Deborah Halpern was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in 2021. 


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