Del Kathryn Barton is an Australian artist well known for her hybrid decorative paintings that blend Austrian Symbolism with Art Nouveau, 1960s psychedelia, Surrealism, and personal whimsy.Read More
The artist's vibrantly patterned images, with added marks and glued on materials, usually feature female portraits surrounded by groups of symbolic flowers and animals, within a highly ornate, obsessively detailed, fantastic delirium.
Barton also makes drawings, prints, sculptures, installations, textiles, videos, and films.
Growing up in the Blue Mountains with nomadic hippie-esque parents, Barton realised at a very young age she had a flair for highly imaginative drawing. Between 1990 and 1993, she studied for a BFA at Sydney College of Fine Arts, already an experienced artist, and taught there for the next two years. She had her first exhibition in 1995.
Starting off with preparatory drawings, Barton takes months to complete the detail, working on several images simultaneously. Creating flowing background forms and densely intricate weblike patterns through improvisation, she takes her paintings through digital 'collaging' processes, adding further tactile substances—like glitter, sequins, and embroidery—to the surface. See, for example, of pink planets (2014), The Highway is a Disco (2015), what I am also (2013), and i am going through changes (2016).
Barton's finely detailed, glowing jewel-like works are often about solidarity with other strong-minded women, or her emotional relationship with her family, especially the children she has raised. Familial domestic content is immersed in the swirling or botanically layered ornamentation of her images.
On some occasions Barton's images have become more overtly collage-based, more clearly Surreal, and less Symbolist, using digital ink-jet printing technology that is painted over. The autobiographical narrative aspects are seemingly diminished here, less prone to feyness, and the interpretative possibilities made wilder and more open.
Human faces and intact unclothed bodies disappear so that the mood becomes sci-fi, nightmarish, and more ferocious, very oblique, and far less like a bejewelled fairy tale. Yet these restlessly inventive collages are still very much about female sexuality, exuberantly carnal in their metaphors, and clearly linked to the artist's awareness of her own desires. The many imaged 'inside another land' (2017) series is a remarkable example. In this large suite of hybrid fantasies human and unhuman parts blend, propelling libidinous energy as a frenetic driver that unpredictably charges off in any direction, consuming all in its path. With hints of pornography in the arrangement of limbs, but enlarged flower parts dominating, Barton asserts an unabashedly independent will for female power and pleasure.
The artist is a two-time winner of the Archibald Prize, Art Gallery of New South Wales (2008 and 2013).
Del Kathryn Barton's work is held in major collections throughout Australia, including National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney; The Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA), Brisbane; and Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide.
Significant solo exhibitions include i wanted to build a bed for all the tired beds, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney (2019); soft river yr girl, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney (2017); r u a bunny?, albertz benda, New York (2017); the highway is a disco, ARNDT, Singapore (2015); electro orchid, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney (2014); and The Nightingale and the Rose, Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne (2012).
Significant group shows include Express Yourself: Romance Was Born for Kids, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (2014); Dark Heart, Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art (2014); and Theatre of the World, Museum of Old and New Art, Tasmania (2012).
Del Kathryn Barton's Instagram can be found here.
John Hurrell | Ocula | 2021
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