About the Works

The challenge of portraiture is to portray the subject’s personality as well as their physical appearance. In these works, I hope to convey the empathy Bob has for nature, the determination and anger Julia exuded when she gave her Misogyny Speech, the exuberance and kindness of Kathy and the confidence of Ben.

In the self-portrait (my first) I’ve tried to convey the loss of control I felt when diagnosed with MS many years ago. The lacy feet articulate the overcoming: they express my gratitude that I can still climb mountains.

About Jane Théau

Jane Théau is multi-disciplinary artist whose practise encompasses sculpture and installation, curation, arts writing and the facilitation of community art projects. She works with media as weighty and permanent as bronze and as ephemeral as performance but returns always to that most tactile medium: textiles.

In 2021, Jane completed doctoral research that explores the relationship between textiles and tactility in contemporary art and drew upon the sensory philosophy of Michel Serres which calls for an embodied engagement with the world through all the senses.

An important component of Jane’s practise is the facilitation of community art projects and the promotion of art in the community. She served as President of the Workshop Art Centre from 2014 to 2017, and in 2020 founded Textiles Sydney.

Awards Jane has received include residencies at Hill End Art Gallery, Bundanon, and Icelandic Textile Center in Iceland, the Rookwood Sculpture Award, the Grace Cossington Smith Early Career Artist Award, the Australian Design Centre Award and an Australian Postgraduate Award. Group exhibitions include the 2020 Tamworth Textile Triennial, the Black Swan Portrait Prize and the Wangaratta Contemporary Textile Award.

Jane’s lace portraits recently featured in Sue Healey’s dance/film production On View: Panorama Suite which toured Japan, Sydney and Hong Kong in 2020 and 2021. She has a PhD from the Australian National University, a Master of International Affairs from Columbia University, a Master of Art from the University of NSW and a Bachelor of Applied Science from the University of Technology, Sydney.

Frayed Nerves, 2024
thread, tarlatan, wire, tapestry frame

When I was pregnant with my first child I was diagnosed with MS, and two weeks after the birth I couldn’t walk. My husband and I were working in London at the time and neither of us had family close by. I felt as if I had been thrown into the air, there was nowhere to land, and my frayed neurons were tangling up my life. Caring for a newborn at any time is discombobulating, but it is exponentially hard when you can’t walk and have no one to help! I rarely speak about my neurological peculiarity but Maggie, Tina and I decided to included self-portraiture in the exhibition and this just materialised.

The beautiful tapestry frame around this sorry self-portrait was found at the marché aux puces near the Porte de Clignacourt in Paris. Although I struggle from time to time with the art of tapestry, I can take no credit for the making of this one.

My Beautiful Boots, 2024
thread, wire

My Birks, 2024
thread, wire

My Birks (2), 2024
thread, wire

My Feet (while drinking tea), 2024
thread, wire

My Feet (while reading), 2024
thread, wire

These five pieces of machine lace are love letters to my feet.

There have been a few times in my life when I’ve been unable to walk. While I live with a little bit of fear that this could happen again, I’m really lucky that these episodes eventually passed. Every day - literally every day - I feel grateful that I can walk my dog and cycle and swim and drive and climb mountains. Ambulation is such a gift!

Saint Bob and the Swifts, 2024
thread, fabric, wire, digital print

This portrait is based on a photo taken by Ramji Ambrosiussen on February 19 this year when Bob Brown was arrested for protesting the logging of old growth forests. This forest in the Styx Valley of Tasmania is a breeding ground for the critically endangered Swift Parrot. I have included the image with this portrait to give context to the work, in particular to highlight the size and age of the trees that are being destroyed every day. They are massive and ancient and precious and once they are gone it is forever.

The judge will hand down her findings relating to the trespass charge, which could carry a gaol sentence, on August 5. Why, at the age of 79, does Saint Bob and his fellow activists still have to risk gaol trying to save these forests from an unprofitable, taxpayer subsidised, government-owned company’s activities?

#MeToo, 2017
thread, tarlatan, wire

#MeToo is a portrait of Julia Gillard, who during her three years as Prime Minister was subjected to blatant misogyny and bullying largely orchestrated by the Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott. He attacked her more frequently for her decision to have no children, her body shape and the clothes she wore than her actions as the leader of the nation. The “Ditch the Witch” placard strategically positioned behind Abbott during a rally encapsulates a Middle Ages brand of misogyny and an attitude to women that bubbles under the surface of certain sections of contemporary Australian society.

When, in October 2012, Abbott accused Gillard of sexism she had had enough and responded with her now famous Misogyny Speech. It ended with the demand that “the Leader of the Opposition … think seriously about the role of women in public life and in Australian society because we are entitled to a better standard than this.” Millions of women applauded her speech, because finally and in the most public forum the undercurrent of misogyny in our society was called out. In that speech, Julia spoke for each of us.

#MeToo is based on the biblical story of Judith, a woman who saved the Israelites from the Assyrian army by decapitating their General Holofernes. Judith, holding the head of Holofernes, is depicted paintings by Titian, Goya, Klimt and Artemesia Gentileschi. The latter has particular significance as Gentileschi was a seventeenth century victim of rape who took her attacker to court. #MeToo references Cristofano Allori’s painting Judith with the Head of Holofernes (1613), and the exquisite lace panel Judith and Holofernes in the Powerhouse Museum. In place of a sword, Julia wields her powerful speech to emasculate her abuser.

I created this work in 2018. In 2024 it seems the standard has little changed for we reel from continually increasing levels of violence against women.

Ben, 2019
thread, tarlatan, wire

I met Benjamin Hancock when curating Art That Moves, an evening of performance art at the Workshop Art Centre in Willoughby. He is a dancer and choreographer, winner of the Australian Dance Award (2017), and an acclaimed performance artist in drag cabaret and club venues. He is also a talented maker of costumes, including the one he wears in this portrait which is a sober black dress that conceals a riot of colourful flowers on the inside of the skirt. This work was made as a series of six portraits of dancers for Sue Healey’s On View: Panoramic Suite which toured Japan, Hong Kong and Sydney from 2020 to 2022.

A Portrait of Kathy, 2018 - 2023
thread, tarlatan, wire, video, poem

I met Kathy – my extraordinary friend - when we were both studying in New York. She was a dancer, puppeteer and Head of the Dance Department at the University of Western Sydney and my artistic collaborator. In 2015, when she was recovering from treatment for breast cancer, we spent a freezing, amazing month together as artists-in-residence at Hill End. Kathy died in 2022 and I wrote this poem the day of her funeral.

January 5, 2023

Today we were Kathy’s curtilage,

our clustered memories

a cloister around her.


I showered her with tears that exploded onto the inside of my spectacles

like the mountain rain blowing outside

against the windows

of the chapel.


I am mourning a friendship true and profound,

and an artistic collaboration fecund and generous,

that ranged from the crazy restlessness of New York

to the calm and decrepit beauty of Hill End

where Kathy wrote of curtilages

and we puppeted with the bones of kangaroos.


we sang her with love and praise

and acknowledged our deep debt

to her deep love

of us.


we heard in words a portrait of her life,

and after watching Kathy clap and grin with cheeky glee

at the end of her video portrait,

we gave her a standing ovation,

applauding the consummate performance,

her life.

Unconscious Bias
, 2017 - 2024
thread, wire, horsehair

Image top: Jane Théau, My Birks (detail), 2024. Photo: Courtesy of the Artist