Important Australian + International Fine Art
16 August 2023


born 1972

synthetic polymer paint on linen

263.0 x 203.0 cm

signed, dated and inscribed with title lower right: - of pink planets - / del kathryn barton 2014
signed, dated and inscribed with title verso: of pink planets / del kathryn barton / 2014

$300,000 – $400,000
Sold for $527,727 (inc. BP) in Auction 75 - 16 August 2023, Melbourne

Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney (label attached verso)
Private collection, Sydney, acquired from the above in 2014


Del Kathryn Barton: electro orchid, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney, 13 November – 13 December 2014, cat. 1
Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 17 November 2017 – 12 March 2018


Mandryk, C., 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco', Art Almanac, 30 January 2018
McDonald, J., 'Kathryn Del Barton: The Highway is a Disco', The Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney, 20 January 2018
McInerney, A., 'the ngv to host largest ever del kathryn barton exhibition' i-D Magazine, 14 September 2017 (illus.)
Wallis, P & Frew, P., Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 2017, pp. 2 (illus.), 3, 119

Catalogue text

A towering altarpiece to a mysterious chimeric goddess, Del Kathryn Barton’s Of Pink Planets, 2014 seduces with dazzling colours and a lavish cornucopia of minute decorative details which densely cover the painting’s surface. Painted in the centre of a symmetrical radiating mandala, she is depicted amongst whimsical boughs and garlands like a holy icon of organic origins. Although she is flanked by flora and fauna identifiably Antipodean, Barton’s female deity inhabits a different universe. Kneeling atop the eponymous pink planet, she travels through a starry psychedelic void, her wallaby-faced companion clinging to her feathered thigh. Yet, for all of these eye-catching details, the subject of this painting appears resolute and unemotional, gazing imperiously through us towards an unknowable future.

dh230202 Del (Sup Image)-cmyk.jpg

Del Kathryn Barton
the highway is a disco, 2015
synthetic polymer paint and fibre-tipped pen on canvas
Private collection, Austria
© Del Kathryn Barton

One of Australia’s foremost contemporary artists, Del Kathryn Barton’s signature aesthetic of sensual abundance is instantly recognisable and Of Pink Planets presents a condensed, all-encompassing window into her imaginative world. By the time it was painted, the artist was already a two-time Archibald prize winner, and was poised to diversify her artistic practice with her first cinematic work, an animated adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s The Nightingale and the Rose. Barton’s now multidisciplinary practice still revolves around figurative painting and is anchored by a practice of theme-and-variation which creates strong aesthetic links between each of her works. 

Featured prominently in Barton’s largest solo survey show to date, The Highway is a Disco, held in 2017 at the National Gallery of Victoria, Of Pink Planets is a key work within her oeuvre. Alongside associated large-scale paintings like We Will Ride, 2014 and The Highway is a Disco, 2015, Of Pink Planets displays an idealised and strong female warrior figure, confidently navigating an endless universe of her own making and ‘creating new worlds in her wake.’1 Although she bears the same luminescent pale skin and inky wandering shadows as other humans within Barton’s universe, this goddess presents a terrifying and awe inspiring form, her erect and abundant chest reminiscent of the ancient fertility goddess, Artemis of Ephesus. Poised on bended knee with her arms suspended, she trembles with anticipation. Even her hair stands on end, towering upwards in a voluminous quiff. Her power and presence is abundantly and fiercely feminine, reinforced by the symbolic attributes of two waratah flowers in full bloom, their globulous forms bursting open on either side of her. Although faithful in their real-world mimetism, they too have sprung forth from this planet, jutting out from its striated barnacles.
Much of Barton’s work displays interlocking organic systems and metamorphic beings. She bedecks her surfaces with carefully drawn details inspired from her childhood in the Australian bush, from the feathered armbands of the goddess and bristled fur of her companion to the purely abstract radiating concentric circles and chevrons that frame the scene and coalesce around her body like an aura. A celestial and cosmological being, this goddess towers over her translucent globe. Evoking the whimsical tiny asteroid home of the Little Prince, this orb is more than just a pedestal. Veins of bright blue and scarlet snake out from its core to pierce her body and entwine her torso, nourishing her and creating a symbiotic relationship between her body and the broader environment. In this scene, the wallaby, with a glassy eye and head turned towards the goddess’ chest as if to suckle, appears to transform into a striped and spotted snake wound around her opposite arm. Barton’s layered painted surface is slick and polished. The disparate elements of this astonishing being and her attributes are tied together through repeated decorative details covering the canvas support. Large leaves flutter behind and in front of her figure, their green and blue kaleidoscopic surfaces salient against a palette dominated by contrasting pink and orange. While the willowy forms of her protagonist quotes the figurative work of Egon Schiele, symbolist myths and High Renaissance portraiture, the dense, all-over patterning echoes the delicate dotted nets of contemporary female artists Yayoi Kusama, Emily Kngwarreye and Angelina Pwerle.

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Installation view of ‘Del Kathryn Barton: electro orchid’, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery,
Sydney, 13 November – 13 December 2014
Of Pink Planets, 2014, centre

The maternal figure has maintained a crucial presence in Barton’s works, and while otherworldly, the central anthropomorphic figure in Of Pink Planets is clearly a fertility goddess, providing nourishing abundance in symbiotic tandem with the natural systems of her universe. Omnipotent and omniscient, she is at one with her surroundings, deriving her power from its natural elements and emanating radiating fields of shimmering electricity. Although adorned with quaint candy-coloured bows, there is nothing innocent about this goddess. Reinforcing the impenetrable aesthetic profusion of Barton’s surface, her aloof presence holds the viewer at arms’ length, a sorceress who requires unquestioning devotion and obedience.
1. Barton cited in Vogue Living, Sydney, 18 November 2017