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Deborah Mailman by Evert Ploeg

An interview with artist Evert Ploeg about his portrait of the Australian actor Deborah Mailman.

Interview with Evert Ploeg
Video: 2 minutes

The National Portrait Gallery would like to thank Evert Ploeg for his kind assistance with this project. All images courtesy of the artist.

Evert Ploeg: The wool bale just reminded me of that earthy kind of Australian landscape. That’s why I think those two kind of surfaces and her personality as a narrative go together.

I did spray in DM, Deborah Mailman, up the top. I did have, like, “Class 1A,” saying that she was, you know, very classy. The whole composition then was just geared up into a big triangle that goes straight to her face. I didn’t want her distracted by a pocket, or jeans, or shoes, or any of that kind of stuff.

Well, the reason why I put her into this … I call it the kaftan thing is because I didn’t want the clothes to be specific to a particular kind of era, or that was in fashion – like hipster jeans, or … I didn’t want a cliché kind of thing.

I still have to, funnily enough, sit in it myself and do it in reverse. I don’t have a mannequin, so I can’t actually put it into something. Sometimes it’s easier if you just look at yourself in the mirror and so there were parts where I would put it on to see how that fold would kind of go, say, maybe down near her leg.

Initially she was just kind of leaning forward. She might have had, like, her hands folded in front like this. At some stage I said, “Oh, do you want to have a coffee?” and she just said, “Oh, I’ll just have a break” sort of thing, and she just kind of leant back. And that’s when I went, “Oh, that one looks good.”