Important Australian + International Fine Art
16 August 2023


born 1972

American black walnut with Cambia ash and rock maple wood, abalone green and white freshwater mother of pearl inlay, hard wax oil, blackened steel

157.0 x 100.0 x 100.0 cm

unique (conceived as an edition of three, only one produced)

signed left edge: del kathryn barton
inscribed with title and numbered right edge: more the her 1/3

$80,000 – $120,000

Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney
Boris and Naomi Tosic, Sydney


Del Kathryn Barton, the woman who fell to earth, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney, 6 – 28 May 2022, cat. 7 (illus. in exhibition catalogue as ‘more than her’)

Catalogue text

In 2017, Del Kathryn Barton, grappling with her mother’s terminal cancer diagnosis, imagined a large shell vessel for her to ‘sail away on’, carried through the universe to an afterlife.1 At the Foot of Your Love, 2017, a massive fabricated wooden conch, was the ambitious sculpture that realised Barton’s artistic gesture derived from filial devotion. Combined with a patchwork textile sail, this work occupied a central space in the artist’s survey show at the National Gallery of Victoria the same year, The Highway is a Disco.
Following the success of this first collaboration with specialist building company, Élan, the multidisciplinary artist revisited the project several years later to create a sumptuous suite of three smaller solid timber shells: the queen conch, the nautilus shell and the spider conch. More The Her, 2022 copies the 3D-mapped form of a queen conch from the artist’s personal collection (a gift from her late mother), finely crafted with horizontal slices of American Black Walnut, with an inlaid stylised eye, made from contrasting tranches of ash, maple and two different tones of mother of pearl.
With exquisite marquetry and tactile sinuous surfaces, the organic form of the queen conch shell is endowed with an evocatively female quality. Appearing deceptively soft by virtue of its sanded and varnished surfaces, the shell is in fact a hard and durable exoskeleton, providing shelter and safe passage to its inhabitants. The title of More The Her appears to be an anagram of the words Mother Here, and when combined with symbolic undertones of the shell as a womb, it links this sculptural work to the rest of Barton’s oeuvre of painted portraits, of mothers, female warriors and shape-shifting androgynous gods.
The technical prowess and master craftsmanship provided by Élan allowed Del Kathryn Barton’s richly imaginative world to expand beyond the two dimensional surface of the canvas, mimicking the minutiae of her vision in a tangible, volumetric form. Beyond the butcher’s block chequerboard surface, the motif of a single eye, rendered here with vibrant green abalone pearl inlay demonstrates the translation of the artist’s signature meticulousness and sumptuous surfaces into manufactured large-scale sculpture. Even the inscriptions are lettered with inlays of mother of pearl. Tragically, the charismatic master joiner Boris Tosic, the fabricator and first owner of this sculpture, died prematurely shortly after the three sculptures were exhibited at Barton’s exhibition The Women Who Fell to Earth, at Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery mid-2022. The ambitious, multiple editions of each of these shells were never to be completed.
The figures of Barton’s paintings all gaze out with large inky, galactic eyes, seeing in a metaphysical rather than physical sense. Staring out from the enchanted world of Barton’s imagination, these eyes look back at the viewer to echo our own perception of the artwork, and solicit a glistening path of understanding. In More The Her, this theme is addressed with the artist’s motif of a single wide-open eye, referencing the all-seeing eye of christian iconography.2 Perhaps too, like a middle-eastern Nazar or Wedjat eye-shaped amulet, it provides a watchful, protective presence to the soul, as it travels on the shell down the primordial river to the underworld. 
1. Barton cited in The Highway is a Disco, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne,, accessed June 2023
2. Ewington, J., Del Kathryn Barton, Piper Press, Sydney, 2014, p. 37