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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

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Deborah Mailman

1999
Evert Ploeg

oil on jute (frame: 178.0 cm x 148.0 cm, support: 167.0 cm x 137.0 cm)

Deborah Mailman AM (b. 1972), Bidjara and Māori (Ngāti Porou and Te Arawa) actor and singer, was in her early twenties when she co-devised and appeared in the one-woman stage show Seven Stages of Grieving, which was later staged in London. In 1998, for her performance in the film Radiance, she became the first Aboriginal woman to win Best Actress at the AFI Awards; five years later she was named the NAIDOC Person of the Year. In 2012, she won Best Lead Actress for her role in The Sapphires (2011) at the AACTA Awards. For Mabo (2012) and Redfern Now: Promise Me (2015), she won Most Outstanding Actress at the 2013 and 2016 Logies. In 2019 she starred in the ABC series Total Control, for which she won the AACTA Award for Best Lead Actor in a TV drama; the second series was filmed in 2021.

Evert Ploeg painted this work on a panel of jute which he sourced from an old wool bale located in the rafters of his barn-like studio. 'I needed someone who was earthy, Australian, and my mind just naturally went to Deborah.' In speaking about the portrait to the Sydney Morning Herald, Mailman said: 'I feel he has brought to light a deeper, more contemplative side of myself.' The work was a 1999 Archibald Prize finalist.

Purchased 2000
© Evert Ploeg/Copyright Agency, 2021

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. Works of art from the collection are reproduced as per the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). The use of images of works from the collection may be restricted under the Act. Requests for a reproduction of a work of art can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.
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Audio description

3 minutes 19 seconds
Show transcript

Artist and subject

Evert Ploeg (age 36 in 1999)

Deborah Mailman (age 27 in 1999)

Subject professions

Performing arts

Related information

The Companion

Permanent collection catalogue

Café and shop

On one level The Companion talks about the most famous and frontline Australians, but on another it tells us about ourselves: who we read, who we watch, who we listen to, who we cheer for, who we aspire to be, and who we'll never forget. The Companion is available to buy online and in the Portrait Gallery Store.

Deborah Mailman by Evert Ploeg

Portrait story

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

Deborah Mailman
Deborah Mailman
Deborah Mailman
Deborah Mailman

The Secret Life of Deb

Magazine article by Michelle Fracaro, 2003

Australian actress Deborah Mailman is the subject of a unique portrait by Evert Ploeg.

© National Portrait Gallery 2021
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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

This website comprises and contains copyrighted materials and works. Copyright in all materials and/or works comprising or contained within this website remains with the National Portrait Gallery and other copyright owners as specified.

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. The use of images of works of art reproduced on this website and all other content may be restricted under the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). Requests for a reproduction of a work of art or other content can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

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