Important Australian + International Fine Art
6 May 2015


born 1972

synthetic polymer paint, gouache, watercolour and ink on polyester canvas

172.0 x 120.5 cm

signed and dated centre right: del kathryn barton 2005
signed, dated and inscribed verso on stretcher: .... she appeared as a lover might ....... | del kathryn barton / 2005 / acrylic, gouache, watercolour / & pen on polyester canvas

$100,000 - 140,000
Sold for $120,000 (inc. BP) in Auction 39 - 6 May 2015, Melbourne

Karen Woodbury Gallery, Melbourne (label attached verso) 
Company collection, Melbourne


Del Kathryn Barton: thank you for loving me, Karen Woodbury Gallery, Melbourne, 7 September – 1 October 2005

Catalogue text

Featured on the cover of the catalogue accompanying the artist's highly acclaimed exhibition 'thank you for loving me' at Karen Woodbury Gallery, Melbourne in 2005, 'she appeared as a lover might', 2005 encapsulates superbly the beguiling, richly embellished portraits for which Barton today remains so universally admired. Deploying the female face as a repository of thoughts, emotions and fantasies, such richly illustrative works typically offer a complex, often disorienting meditation upon the dichotomous nature of beauty which, by highlighting both its sensual and abject dimensions, seeks to undermine simplistic notions of the feminine.

Betraying a lavish, compulsive beauty in its infinitely rendered elaboration, these composite portraits notably occupy an enchanted natural realm - adorned with flourishes of foliage and fauna, and indelibly informed by the artist's own 'magical' childhood experiences of exploring the bushland amidst the foothills of the Blue Mountains. Where Barton roamed an actual wilderness however, significantly she now immortalises the more complex, bewitching domain of the subconscious, seeing forests as '...a way to describe the inner landscape - that is not of this world.'1 Thus, while alluding to the imaginary, naive world of children and fantasy, Barton's creatures are far from innocuous, decorous or purely decorative. Reminiscent rather of the multitudes of fairies in Victorian art and literature, Barton's ethereal sprites are already adult, expressive and sexually empowered, embodying a wealth of human desires, repressions and fears. With her direct, steady gaze, indeed the sitter here implies a certain knowingness or wisdom - what does she reveal with her overblown face and simultaneously conceal with her innocent stare? The sinister overtone of the scene is reiterated further by the feline companion which sits upon her shoulder, its claws slowly sinking into her flesh to poignantly evoke the duality of the human psyche and the seemingly impenetrable mysteries which it holds - what seems cute and benign may also be carnal and predatory. In a similar vein, a slender thread loops and sutures various body parts such as bulbous ears, suggesting violent binding and creating a fundamentally disquieting sense of emotional longing, nostalgia and mystery.

Appealing to the basic human impulse to imagine the character behind a face, thus 'she appeared as a lover might' both delights and intrigues in its disconcerting fluidity between real and imaginary, representation and subjectivity. As Julie Ewington observes in her recent, sumptuous monograph on the artist, 'Everything in these mythic universes is already significant, though not always to the uninitiated' it is as if the paintings are manifestations of a narrative which one must not only learn, but earn'.2

1. Barton, D.K., quoted in Ewington, J., Del Kathryn Barton, Piper Press, New South Wales, 2014, p. 31 
2. Ibid., p. 53