satellite fade-out 3, Del Kathryn Barton, 2011 © Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery. Courtesy of the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney.
By Anna Lutkajtis
The Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery has been taken over by aliens! Thin, angular, feather-covered beings from another world adorn the walls. One particularly frightening-looking creature has twisted horns protruding from her head and a black and yellow patterned corroboree frog perched on her shoulder. Although the species is unknown, these aliens seem to be female, evidenced by fashion model-esque facial features, not to mention their (often multiple) exposed breasts. Of course, these are not real aliens, but some of the extraordinary works featured in Del Kathryn Barton’s latest solo exhibition – satellite fade-out.
Satellite fade-out is a series of monolithic portraits featuring fantastical female figures from an unspecified race. The exhibition comprises eighteen large-scale paintings and eleven drawings, and the grand scale of the paintings and their incredible detail make this arguably Barton’s most impressive exhibition to date. Although well known for her meticulously painted portraits, the attention to detail in these works is so extraordinary it almost overwhelms the subject matter. The use of repetitive patterns and decorative markings brings to mind Indigenous Australian dot paintings and creates a sense of wonder at the amount of time it must have taken to achieve such an effect. In the digital media age, Barton is still very much committed to the handmade.
Many of the works in the exhibition evoke a Gustav Klimt meets Japanese manga feel. Two works in particular, satellite fade-out 3 and satellite fade-out 7, seem to directly reference Klimt’s Adele Bloch-Bauer I, from the shape of the figures’ hair to the positioning of their hands. Barton’s signature use of bright colour and her preference for giving her subjects large watery eyes, also lends the work a dark, cartoon-like quality. Although the figures are clearly not from this world, the portraits do contain earthly details such as recognisable species of flowers and animals, and human-created elements such as ribbons and bows. The inclusion of ribbons contributes to the overall feminine feel of the works and evokes Barton’s other key influences – fashion and female sexuality.
Barton is one of Australia’s most popular contemporary artists and has been exhibiting regularly since 1995, drawing much attention and praise from both critics and the general public. She has been named one of Australia’s “50 most collectable artists” by Australian Art Collector magazine every year since 2006, and in 2008 won the Archibald prize with her work, You are what is most beautiful about me, a self-portrait that depicted her with her son and daughter. With Satellite fade-out, Barton continues to develop her signature style, while taking her work to new levels of scale and detail. It leaves you wondering what might be next from this very talented artist.
Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, 14 July 2011 – 6 August 2011.