Important Australian + International Fine Art
1 December 2022


born 1972

oil on canvas

86.0 x 64.0 cm

signed and dated lower left: 2017 / – del / kathryn / barton –

$40,000 – $60,000
Sold for $51,545 (inc. BP) in Auction 72 - 1 December 2022, Melbourne

Private collection, Sydney, a gift from the artist in 2017

Catalogue text

Del Kathryn Barton’s sumptuously patterned portraits of women and chimeric goddesses explore intertwined representations of female vulnerability and power. Combining a three-quarter profile with a polychromatic stylised aesthetic, I Give Myself to You.…. Constant Wonder, 2017 belongs to an ongoing series within Barton’s oeuvre, ever evolving with the incorporation of new artistic devices and gestures. Her mature portraits draw inspiration from High Renaissance portraiture of the fashionable elite and are often imbued with the unsettled eroticism of modern European artists, such as Egon Schiele and Louise Bourgeois. Despite sharing the same wide watery eyes, these poised and tight-lipped protagonists are far removed from the childlike beings of Barton’s earlier works. They have aged alongside the artist, retaining otherworldly attributes which signify their belonging to the artist’s vivid phantasmagorical world.

One of Australia’s most acclaimed contemporary artists, Del Kathryn Barton’s practice is today multi-disciplinary, encompassing even an audacious and surreal full-length feature film, Blaze, released earlier this year as part of the Sydney Film Festival. Notwithstanding these varied artistic pursuits, the intricate and meditative act of drawing still underpins all of Barton’s work. Raw and instinctual, Barton’s wandering inky lines trace the spindly fingers and angular elfin features of her subjects and the outer edges of delicately modulated liquid shadows. This signature illustrative quality is contrasted within I Give Myself to You….. Constant Wonder by the varied textures of the whorls of the subject’s spray-painted hair, veil of pearly polka-dots, and the thick materiality of the imbricated orange background. The clean, white ground of Barton’s canvas becomes the figure’s pale skin, overlaid with washes of paint, tonally warm and seductively candy-coloured. This is a modern portrait of a young woman dispassionately emerging from her magical realm. While she bears no plumed hybridity or multiple limbs, this protagonist is no less an enchantress, her ethereal strangeness is hidden within her enormous eyes.

Staring blankly into the distance, the subject of this portrait does not communicate with the viewer, nor is alert to her bright surroundings. Like her sisters, she looks both inward and outward, voyaging beyond the mundane towards a cosmic realm. She is transfixed, awestruck by an unknowable plane of consciousness, her large eyes unblinking and swirling with visual delirium. She shares a steely impenetrable expression with the other figures from her world, even in larger compositions while contorted into tantric poses or voyaging on giant rodents through astral planes. Chastely presented, our subject has her hands held up enquiringly, framing her face to express some unknown significance. These ‘fluttering hands’ appear frequently in Barton’s works, inferring a certain spiritual or sacred atmosphere, a quasi-medieval mysticism.1

Painted in 2017, this portrait shares affinities with the hypnotic works shown the same year in Barton’s first solo exhibition in New York. Like the fierce subjects of those paintings, here the sitter acts as a semi-human bridge between the viewer and the more terrifying creatures of Barton’s universe. Gesturing cryptically and peering into the abyss, she encourages us to proceed with caution, abandoning ourselves to the wonderful sensory experience of this world and beyond.

1. Wallis, P., ‘Matrix of Desire’, Del Kathryn Baton, The Highway is a Disco, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 2017, p. 5