– by Wendy Morley –
Del Kathryn Barton studied at the College of Fine Arts of the University of New South Wales, graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 1993 and began exhibiting in Sydney and Melbourne in 1995. She has won the Archibald Prize, Australia’s most prestigious prize for portraits, in 2008 and 2013, and she has been a finalist on two other occasions.
Wendy Morley: You still live in Australia, I believe? What is the art climate in Australia? I always picture the country to be very supportive of its own. Has that been the case for you?
Del Kathryn Barton: Given that there are so many sub-categories within the art world here in Australia, it is hard to describe the climate succinctly. I live in Sydney, which is a very competitive place to live and practice. I feel the Australian art world is, at times, a fairly brutal place to work, so artists find their own ways of surviving whilst continuing to courageously grow their practices. I sustain myself through consistently working. I truly do live for my work. I am completely addicted to the making.
WM: You’re currently featured in a substantial show in New York: “like- ness” at Albertz Benda Gallery. I’m interested to hear how well known you are and how you find the reception in the US vs Europe vs Asia.
DKB: Sadly, my dear Mum fell very sick at the end of last year and I decided to cancel my trip to NYC for the opening of like-ness, so I have not had first-hand insight to the reception of my work there. I am extremely excited that two of my major works that were included in the show have been sold into American collections.
WM: I’m very fond of your style, which I would describe as both whimsical and dark, and from what I’ve seen almost always features a person, often in a portrait sort of set-up. It’s extremely distinctive. How did this style develop through the years? Did you doodle sad people when you were a child?
DKB: Ha! Yes I have always been very drawn to the darker and more sexually explicit side of life.
I suffered from chronic anxiety as a child and from an early age my mother encouraged me to “draw” when I was have an episode. I began to draw obsessively. The act of drawing brings me back into my body in a very profound way.
I drew figures from a young age from a desire to manifest tangible “fantasy beings.” In some ways, I think I was trying to conjure up encounters with my fairy and unicorn companions. In some ways my work still operates in this way.
WM: Who most influenced you? And I don’t mean just artists you’ve loved, although you’re welcome to mention them too! I’m thinking of teachers or mentors.
DKB: I am one of those people that finds sensory inspiration and influence in almost anything. I am easily over-stimulated and need distilled spaces (like my studio) to hide away in. In essence, I think all the good things in life informs and grows my work – sad music, extreme films, art, holo-tropic breathwork, sex, LOVE, and the desire for human connection.
My current mentor is my French bulldog, Cherry Bomb, who also moonlights as my guru. Her crazy, esctatic energy is something I truly delight in.
WM: Which media do you tend to work with? Are you experimenting at all in that regard, or are you content to work with the familiar?
DKB: I am very restless with media and like to treat myself to “serious play” with unfamiliar mediums but I always end up running back to painting and drawing, my greatest loves. My latest exploration is with film. I recently had the pleasure of working with actress Cate Blanchett in a new film I directed titled RED. The film is an unashamed celebration of elemental female power.
WM: What is exciting you about art right now, things you are excited about creating, things happening in the world, or in the art world? Anything that’s stimulating your passion at the moment?
DKB: This is a hard question. It varies from day to day. At the moment, I am a bit obsessed with what I refer to as “dark-boy-art.” I have been re-examining the work of masters like George Condo as well as John Currin’s nudes. They are beyond measure. I also bow down to the apocalyptic musical transportations of the Fuck Buttons and the other evening the Spanish film Gloria had me bawling my eyes out. It was moving perfection!
WM: Can you please tell me about shows you have coming up?
DKB: I am working on a lot of exciting projects at the moment. My next solo show is with Roslyn Oxley 9 Gallery here in Sydney in August.