PUNK, SPUNK AND GREEN RAIN FOR THE HEART, 2004

Important Australian and International Fine Art + Important Indigenous Art
Melbourne
29 November 2017
40

DEL KATHRYN BARTON

born 1972
PUNK, SPUNK AND GREEN RAIN FOR THE HEART, 2004

watercolour, gouache, ink on paper with satin and cotton border

237.0 x 117.0 cm

signed and dated upper left: 2004 del kathryn barton
inscribed with title upper right: -punk, spunk and green rain for the heart-

Estimate: 
$40,000 – 60,000
Provenance

Ray Hughes Gallery, Sydney
Sotheby's, Melbourne, 25 – 26 August 2008, lot 7
Private collection, Melbourne, acquired from the above

Exhibited

Girl, Ray Hughes Gallery, Sydney, 6 November – 1 December 2004, cat. 29

Catalogue text

Betraying a myriad of artistic influences from the fine nude drawings of Egon Schiele to the eroticised poupees of Surrealist Hans Bellmer, Del Kathryn Barton’s richly embellished works offer a complex, often disorienting meditation upon the dichotomous nature of beauty. By highlighting both the sensual and abject dimensions of beauty, she seeks to undermine simplistic notions of the feminine. Not surprisingly perhaps, Barton also references the contradictions inherent in society's celebration of female beauty through the shallow space of fashion – its collapse of life into a pose and collapse of character into a decorative appearance. For all their contemporary allusions however, Barton's lithe figures also seem strangely of another time – their big, overstated eyes recalling the feminine vapid, doe-eyed cuteness in post-war Japanese manga or the unearthly gaze often found in naive art.1

Exhibited at Ray Hughes Gallery in December 2004 alongside her acclaimed suite of obsessively detailed portraits entitled ‘Girl’, Punk, Spunk and Green Rain, 2004 continues Barton’s abiding preoccupation with the subject of what it means to be a young girl on the cusp of adolescence, interweaving her signature motifs of adornment, nature and the animal kingdom to reveal an inner, somewhat darker world of the subconscious. Occupying an enchanted, imaginary realm with flourishes of foliage and fauna, the sitter and her accoutrements evoke at once innocence and eroticism, beauty and ugliness, cuteness and savagery, the domesticated and the feral. Reminiscent of the multitudes of fairies featured 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. Indeed, with her direct, steady gaze here implying a certain knowingness or wisdom, the viewer is left wondering what this childlike girl might reveal with her overblown face and simultaneously conceal behind her innocent, vulnerable stare?

Such is eloquently reiterated in the present composition by not only the metaphor of the blossoming flower bud with its obvious allusions to female sexuality and reproduction, but perhaps more disquietingly, by the feline companion which sits upon her shoulder, its claws slowly sinking into her flesh to symbolise the duality of the human psyche – what seems cute and benign may also be carnal and predatory. As Barton reflects, '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

Appealing to the basic human impulse to imagine the character behind a face, thus Punk, Spunk and Green Rain is a superb example of Barton’s unique ability to both delight and beguile in her unashamedly assertive representations of women. As the artist herself enigmatically muses, ‘I have a face, but a face is not what l am. Behind lies a mind, which you do not see but which looks out on you. This face which you see but l do not, is a medium l own to express something of what l am. Or so it seems till l turn to the mirror’.3

1. Colless, E., 'Del Kathryn Barton', Australian Art Collector, vol 38, October – December 2006, p. 130
2. Barton cited in Barker, C., 'Basic Instinct: Rabbit Protectors and Pussy Lovers’, Oyster Magazine, Sydney, vol. 43, December – January 2003
3. Barton cited in King, N., ‘compulsive beauty: del kathryn barton’s composite portraits’ in del kathryn barton: thankyou for loving me, exhibition catalogue, Karen Woodbury Gallery, Melbourne, 7 September – 1 October 2005, unpaginated

VERONICA ANGELATOS