Arts and entertainment editor Tahli Blackman speaks with acclaimed Australian artist and filmmaker Del Kathryn Barton about her newest exhibition and the deep connection she has to her works.
Del Kathryn Barton is one of Australia’s most acclaimed artists, whose first solo exhibition in three years the women who fell to earth is now showing at the Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery in Sydney until Saturday, 28 May.
This exhibition is a collection of 48 art forms that showcase Barton’s talents in working with film, sculpture, fine art and the written word. Vivid polychromatic colours fill the gallery walls, creating a space for the audience to connect with the feminine power exuding from the art.
The title of the show the women who fell to earth is inspired by one of Barton’s favourite films The Man Who Fell to Earth, starring David Bowie. She has always been influenced by the film and wanted to explore the urgency to preserve planets and ecosystems within her artworks.
“It was important for me to reposition that in a feminist space and swap out the male protagonist for a female protagonist,” she tells The Sentinel
“I wanted to offer a show that felt full of life, beauty and connectivity to the land. I am very passionate about using the female forms as life-giving figures and warriors.”
Barton begins creating an artwork by envisioning a drawing and developing that drawing into a symbolic painting that uses mixed media such as glitter, gouache and markers to include text. She says that throughout the course of making her recent paintings, she has had to endure a lot of very labour-intensive processes and often needed to throw paint on paper and let her emotions run wild.
“I think my greatest joy is to work on paper because that’s where I feel most free and can really mess it up. It’s important for me to have that very emotional and dynamic risk-taking element where I can be angry, or in love, or sad,” she reveals.
“The drawing for me is on one level the most pleasurable but also the most intense. I’m always in the mood to create, which is one of my greatest strengths and weaknesses.”
In this exhibition and many other of Barton’s previous works, the use of vibrant colours becomes a way for her to express emotion and create a sensory experience.
“I’m a self-confessed colour slut,” she jokes.
“For me, experiencing colour really bypasses the cerebral interpretation of any narrative context in the work. I believe that colour brings energy to my artworks.”
The commercial art world is a competitive and often disappointing space that Barton says is not for everyone. Her journey in the commercial art world started in 2001 when she exhibited her drawings at the Ray Hughes Gallery. She was then represented by Vasili Kaliman of Kaliman Galleries and when his gallery closed, she was looking for new representation.
“Roslyn Oxley, who is still the undisputed queen of the Australian art world, was definitely top of my list and when she offered me a show it was a true peak life experience.”
The work of Del Kathryn Barton is and always has been unapologetically female, but she is not interested in interpreting her work for audiences. She finds that once they leave the gallery, she is excited by the fact that audiences must stand alone and have their own autonomous agency.
“I don’t like to speak for other women’s journeys, I only ever want to authentically speak about my own experience inhabiting a female form. The history that I have inherited being born a woman at this time on the planet is one of systemic subjugation and abuse of women and I’m not okay with that,” she expresses.
“So, if my work can empower or move my female audience, that means everything to me.”
Barton describes herself as an introvert who thrives off long solitary hours or days in the studio. She believes that the confident and charismatic women she has created within her works are very different from herself as a person.
“On one level you could argue that all of the female protagonists in my paintings are women that I would like to be but aren’t. But then as truthfully, they are me in a certain way. Maybe I find courage in them,” she confesses.
During the years she has been working on her latest exhibition, Barton has also directed her feature film Blaze, which is her feature debut. The film that combines live-action, puppetry and animation has recently been selected for the Sydney and Tribeca Film Festivals.
Blaze tells the story of a twelve-year-old girl witnessing a sexual assault on the streets and presents an internal conflict of emotions for the character as she seeks out justice. Barton says that Blaze is a very tough story that challenges audiences and is partly informed by her own personal experience. She describes what the film means to her.
“Ultimately it’s a celebration of what I believe to be the inestimable healing capacity of the imaginary world and something that I’ve experienced in my own journey of being human. It’s also a story of celebrating female rage as generative energy on the planet and of resilience and hope.”
the women who fell to earth is showing at the Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Paddington, until Saturday, 28 May. For more information, visit www.roslynoxley9.com.au/exhibition/the-women-who-fell-to-earth/qi8zg
Blaze will be screening at the 2022 Sydney Film Festival, which will run from Wednesday, June 8 to Sunday, June 19. For tickets and more information, visit https://www.sff.org.au/program/browse/blaze
Tahli Blackman is the arts and entertainment editor of the Sydney Sentinel.
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