Important Australian + International Fine Art
29 August 2007


born 1972

synthetic polymer paint and ink on canvas

199.0 x 326.0 cm

signed, dated and inscribed upper right: -we had been picking flowers for centuries......-/ del kathryn barton/ 2003
signed dated and inscribed verso: -bearing gifts- del kathryn barton/ 2003

$50,000 - 70,000
Sold for $138,000 (inc. BP) in Auction 2 - 29 August 2007, Melbourne

Private collection, New South Wales, since 2004


Octopus 4: more real than life, Gertrude Contemporary Art Spaces, 2003
Girl, Ray Hughes Gallery, Sydney, 5 November - 1 December 2004

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

Catalogue text

' [Bearing Gifts 2003] was the first piece where I transferred the line work from paper to canvas, thus giving birth to all the painting that has come since then! I see it as a pivotal work...'

Nominated Australian Art Collector's 'Most Collectable Artist' for 2007, Del Kathryn Barton is without doubt one of the most critically acclaimed, eagerly sought-after figures in Australian contemporary art. Graduating from the University of New South Wales' College of Fine Arts in 1993, she has been a finalist in prestigious competitions such as the Blake Prize for Religious Art; the Sulman Prize and the Helen Lempriere Travelling Art Scholarship, and held numerous highly successful solo exhibitions with Ray Hughes Gallery, Sydney; Kaliman Gallery, Sydney and Karen Woodbury, Melbourne.

Bearing affinities with elements of Pop Art and Surrealism, including the eroticised poupées of Hans Bellmer, Barton's richly illustrative work offers 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. Not surprisingly perhaps, her art 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. Yet for all their contemporary fashion allusions, Barton's lithe figures also seem strangely of another time - their 'big, overstated eyes recalling the feminine vapid, doe-eyed cuteness in Japanese manga or the unearthly gaze often found in naive art.'1

Featuring these wide-eyed, wispily thin women entwined with uncanny creatures and set adrift in fields of wildly chaotic patterns and luxuriant flora, Bearing Gifts is an impressive example of the 'psychologically and visually sexy'2 art for which Barton has become so widely admired. Monumental in scale and painstaking embellishment, the work evokes both sensuous desire and a sense of pending violence as a menagerie of animals including birds, rabbits and cats tug, threaten, love and protect the delicate and palely rendered female nudes. Imbued with a constructed narrative which, as one author notes, 'is not always easy to read - and even easier to misread'3, thus Bearing Gifts continues the artist's abiding interest in the complex relationship between nature and humankind, with the animals depicted representing a metaphor for the duality of the human psyche. What seems cute and benign can also be carnal and predatory; as Barton herself 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...'4

1. Colless, E., 'Del Kathryn Barton', Australian Art Collector, vol 38, October-December 2006, p.130
2. Edward Colless cited in Australian Art Collector, vol 39, January-March 2007, p.99
3. Bearman, N., 'Inner Child', Vive Magazine, February " March 2005, p.50
4. Del Barton cited in Barker, C., 'Basic Instinct: Rabbit Protectors and Pussy Lovers', Oyster Magazine, vol 43, December-January 2003.