Important Australian + International Fine Art
29 April 2009

Del Kathryn Barton

born 1972

synthetic polymer paint, gouache, watercolour and ink on canvas

120.0 x 86.0 cm

signed and dated upper right: del kathryn barton 2005

$40,000 - 50,000
Sold for $48,000 (inc. BP) in Auction 8 - 29 April 2009, Melbourne

Karen Woodbury Gallery, Melbourne
Private collection, Sydney


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

Catalogue text

Del Kathryn Barton's work is instantly recognisable by the artists’ compulsive engagement with the decorative, and her exquisitely crafted, hyperbolic imagery of the feminine. As Barton muses, ‘...the obsession with the human form is about me trying to locate myself, to understand being present physiologically. [It is] layered with concerns regarding body politics, sexuality, death, pleasure principles, love, body-boundary confusions. To put it succinctly, I’d say my work is a sort of documentation of my desire to understand what it means to me to be in a woman's body.’1

The owl, a familiar of the Greek goddess Athena, virgin patron of Athens was considered the embodiment of wisdom. It was not only the companion but also the animal manifestation of the shape-shifting deity when she roamed the corporeal world. In Girl as Owl, the wide, unblinking eyes of that nocturnal creature are delicately rendered as inky portals, the subject neither child nor adult but rather belonging to the half-lit realms of adolescence.

Encompassing the duality of exposure and concealment, Girl as Owl presents a flushed though impregnable figure. Interlocking her subject with a broader history of Western mythologies, Barton deftly references not only Athena, but also one of the peerless predators of the natural world. Able to see in the dark, and having few natural enemies, the owl is a creature which is the embodiment of predation and the natural order of birth, fleeting life and death. It kills without sound, with a violence that is swift and necessary.

As Barton notes, ‘The animal psyche retains dualities that hold seemingly impenetrable mysteries... Mysteries pertaining to lives lived in an elemental, instinctive immediacy that the contemporary human no longer shares on that physical level.’2

1. Barton cited in Baker, C., ‘Basic Instinct: Rabbit Protectors and Pussy Lovers’, Oyster Magazine, vol 43, December - January 2003
2. Barton cited in Baker, op.cit.

Del Kathryn Barton is represented by Karen Woodbury Gallery, Melbourne and Kaliman Gallery, Sydney.