Del Kathryn Barton is widely recognised as one of Australia’s leading figurative painters of her generation. She is a two-time Archibald Prize winner, a position only shared with one other female artist, Judy Cassab. Her winning 2008 self-portrait with her children ‘You are what is most beautiful about me, a self-portrait with Kell and Arella’, and the 2013 portrait of Australian actor Hugo Weaving, have propelled her to local and international distinction.
Looking at Del Kathryn Barton’s works, we are instantly captivated by the intricacy of her delicate marks, from the veins in leaves to the strands of hair. Our eyes travel across the works, drawn to the powerful opulent imagery and lost in their complexity.
The detail of her works is further heightened through collage, with Barton adding unusual mediums from glitter to embroidery to her pieces. Beyond the canvas and drawn from one of her inspirations, the artist’s fantasy world led her to create a 14-minute animated adaption of Oscar Wilde’s work ‘The Nightingale and the Rose’ in 2015 with filmmaker Brendan Fletcher.
“When I first discovered Oscar Wilde’s radical fairy story ‘The Nightingale and the Rose’ as a teenager, it seemed to me that the character of the Nightingale breathed
with the energy of a true artist” (The Artist) Her lithographic prints, whilst not using the range of mediums seen in her paintings, still gather sharp market attention. The intricate use of colour and manipulated texture give the appeal of either a watercolour or oil on paper, and close inspection reveals a superb level of detail.
‘That’s when I was another tree 3’ shows the meticulous detail that the artist is known for. Each strand of hair weaves together to create a foliage-like pattern, as though traced from nature. A rhythmic line extends across and down the sitter’s body, also drawing parallels with nature. Del Kathryn Barton has also included an ode to ‘The Nightingale and the Rose’ with a sparrow perched on her shoulder. It is prints like this that make her one of the most collected and sought-after artists today.
HANNAH RYAN / Art Specialist