Slide Show

26. DEL KATHRYN BARTON 

26. DEL KATHRYN BARTON Satellite Fade-out 7 2011 image

26. DEL KATHRYN BARTON 

28Mar 2018

Del Kathryn Barton’s art is informed by a deeply-ingrained sense of an abundant natural realm, brought to her work from childhood memories of farm life and roaming amongst nature. These experiences left an indelible mark on her artistic practice - the figures, both anthropoid and animal, that inhabit her paintings first appeared in this enchanted childhood wilderness. Her practice has matured since her first Archibald Prize win in 2008 with her self-portrait, ‘you are what is most beautiful about me’ and in 2013 for her portrait of actor Hugo Weaving, ‘hugo’. Winning the prestigious Archibald Portrait prizes signified the artist claiming her place in the art world and it is this deliberate assertion that Barton has become very well-known and celebrated for. Her short animation film (The Nightingale and the Rose) also won the Film Victoria Erwin Rado Award for the Best Short Film-MIFF (Melbourne International Film Festival) 2015, Best direction in an animation (Winner), Australian Directors Guild, Australia 2016, Best Short Animation (Winner) 6th AACTA Awards, Australia 2016.

Satellite Fade-out 7 belongs to a group of works exhibited at Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery in Sydney in 2011, her first solo show since joining the renowned dealer’s stable of artists. For this show, titled Satellite Fade-out, the artist assembled a gallery of commanding women, each larger than life-size, and each distinctly different – their gazes looking both inward and outward. Each canvas presented its sitter in the three quarter format and shallow pictorial space, making the figures appear ‘pressed-up’ against the picture surface. The women in this series of paintings have a regal air; their upright carriage and stern countenance suggests the influence of Dutch and Italian fifteenth-century portrait painters of whom Barton is a known admirer. These polymorphous women can be described as ‘monolithic portraits of an unspecified race – females of the species…they probe their carnal beings but also voyage beyond the outer limits of the mundane realm toward knowledge of a kind more cosmic and more alien.’1

The figure in the present work, Satellite Fade-out 7, is one of few whose gaze is directed toward the viewer - the eyes of the women in other works from this series are averted in other directions. The gaze is one of the very engaging elements of this painting and Barton’s talent for depicting such arresting eyes is demonstrated here. The pronounced features of this figure are sharply delineated: the large, round eyes; long, elegant nose and vividly tinted rosebud mouth. Here, Barton has depicted this figure with a high forehead ending in a widow’s peak and voluminous, coiffed hair suggesting power and nobility. The artist has used a bright palette of watercolours to exaggerate the facial features and draw attention to the figure’s accoutrements, which provide each woman in this series with an identity of her own. The female sitters in the Satellite Fade-out series appear to be feathered, with some bearing wings, ‘signalling that they are in some way mythological creatures, as wingedness is always a sign of past or potential transformation, and of the possibility of moving from one world to another.’2

Del Kathryn Barton celebrated a career milestone in 2017 when she was invited by National Gallery of Victoria Director, Tony Elwood, to hold a solo exhibition of her work at the gallery. This gesture confirmed Barton as one of the pre-eminent Australian artists of the twenty-first century, her extraordinarily wide-ranging practice and highly individualised style make her one of this country’s most recognisable and collectible artists. Barton’s rapid trajectory following the Archibald Portrait prize wins has seen her practise grow and evolve to encompass collaborations in fashion and filmmaking. ‘With a practice spanning art, fashion and film, Barton’s psychedelic images reveal her personal responses to the human experience. She is one of Australia’s most popular artists, renowned for her highly intricate and distinctive hybrid forms, that break down boundaries between humans and nature’.3

Footnotes
1. Rowell, A., Del Kathryn Barton – Satellite Fade-out, press release accompanying the exhibition Satellite Fade-out, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney, 2011
2. Ewington, J., ‘Enchanted’, Del Kathryn Barton, Piper Press, Sydney, 2014, p.67
3. Tony Ellwood, Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco, press release accompanying the exhibition The Highway is a Disco, NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne, 2017

Caroline Jones MArtAdmin