Art & Australia

emerging artists

Del Kathryn Barton


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The ANZ Private Bank Emerging Artist Program is a unique initiative, featuring the work of eight emerging artists on the back cover of Art & Australia between 2004 and 2006.

Both ANZ Private Bank and Art & Australia recognise the often difficult transition artists experience between graduating from art school and establishing a professional career. Although commercial galleries now seem more willing than ever to take on artists at very early stages in their career - reflecting the buoyancy of the market for contemporary art at the present time - there are still few opportunities for emerging artists to exhibit their work and, importantly, to have it published.

The ANZ Private Bank Emerging Artists Program was conceived as a way of providing much-needed support and encouragement for artists in their first period of professional practice. The artists selected for the back-cover initiative have been nominated by the Art & Australia editorial advisory board. The selected artists, of all ages and locations around Australia, reflect both the quality and diversity of work currently being produced by emerging artists.

We are pleased to present Del Kathryn Barton as the inaugural artist to be nominated for the ANZ Private Bank Emerging Artists Program. Del's work is distinguished by its technical skill and its vibrant, figurative imagery. Her drawings and paintings encapsulate the exciting crossovers between traditional techniques and contemporary design and illustration which seems to be a hallmark of much emerging artistic practice in Australia at the present time.

Del's work has a strong foundation of drawing, although she has recently begun to work with painting. She cites artists Kiki Smith, Louise Bourgeois, John Currin and Shirin Neshat as influences, as well as the drawings of Henry Darger, botanical art and fabric design. Her early works featured Egon Schiele-like drawings of naked female bodies entwined with rabbits (which appear repeatedly in her work) but also birds and native animals. The explicit nature of the drawings - with the female genitals depicted in detail and the animals often emerging from the figure's body - have frequently been read as pornographic. However, rather than intentionally explicit or titillating, the drawings are the product of Del's interest in the relationship between humankind and nature. She sees a spiritual presence residing in the natural world and is concerned with the effect of this on humankind's physiological and metaphysical existence.

In her work - of which girl #8 which features on the back cover of the spring 2004 issue of Art & Australia (vol. 42, no. 1) is one example - the depiction of the naked female form has given way to a fascination with the world of children. These detailed, colourful compositions utilising both drawing and painting portray young girls and occasionally boys. The children seem to occupy an imaginary world, surrounded by foliage, abstract shapes and patterns as well as Del's familiar birds and rabbits. But while the works allude to the innocent, imaginative world of children, the direct, steady gaze of each child implies a certain knowingness or wisdom. The fluidity between the real and the imaginary is a central concern of Del's practice.

Del Kathryn Barton (born in 1972) studied at the College of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales in Sydney, and since 1995 has participated in a range of solo and group exhibitions. She currently lives and works in Sydney where she is represented by Ray Hughes Gallery. In Melbourne she is represented by Karen Woodbury Gallery.


Claire Armstrong
 
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