BOY #1, 2004

Important Australian + International Fine Art
1 September 2010

Del Kathryn Barton

born 1972
BOY #1, 2004

synthetic polymer paint, gouache, watercolour and ink on canvas

120.0 x 86.0 cm

signed lower left: del kathryn barton
signed and inscribed verso: boy #1 / del kathryn barton 2004

$38,000 - 48,000
Sold for $45,600 (inc. BP) in Auction 16 - 1 September 2010, Sydney

Ralph Lauren Pink Pony auction (Art Gallery of New South Wales), Sydney
Private collection, Sydney


Del Kathryn Barton, Cathy Blanchflower, Derek O'Connor, Monika Tichacek, Karen Woodbury Gallery, Melbourne, 26 March – 1 May 2004 (label attached verso)
A Pink Idea: Contemporary Artists Raise Awareness for Breast Cancer, Ralph Lauren Pink Pony auction, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2004 (illus. in exhibition catalogue p. 3)

Del Kathryn Barton is represented by Karen Woodbury Gallery, Melbourne

Catalogue text

Boy #1, immediately transports us to Del Kathryn Barton's labyrinthine dream world. Here, a fey and knowing child gazes out unblinking, hands clasped around an attendant fawn. Yet like so many of Barton's creatures, a transformation has begun. Meticulously rendered, silken fur has crept up onto the figure's arms, blooming in a roundel chakra at the solar plexus, the seat of sensual knowing. A bloom of purple spreads up to the throat and inky eyes, intimating that in time the child will have his porcelain flesh consumed by a mantle of fur.

It is this blurring of the distinction between human and animal, this transmutation from one form to another, which is both wondrous and terrible. As Barton notes,'the animal psyche retains dualities that hold seemingly impenetrable mysteries... Mysteries pertaining to lives lived in elemental, instinctive immediacy that the contemporary human no longer shares on that physical level.'1

Drips and multicoloured droplets spread like rain across the surface, the subject rises from a thicket of ghostly waratahs, each flower comprised of many hundreds of smaller flowers. An apt metaphor for the work of Barton, each painting is a complex arrangement of symbols and motifs, exquisitely crafted in the language of the feminine. It is this interplay between the material and the conceptual, the corporeal and the illusory, that unsettles and makes us beholden to the spectacle of Barton's curiosities. As noted by writer Naomi Flatt, 'the tension between meticulous details - handcrafting - and the freedom and vigour of expression, particularly in the figures, speaks to the ambiguous relationship between bodies and nature in Barton's work.'2

Spun from threadlike lines of ink with washes of delicate colour, pooling in moments of drama and dangerous beauty, boy #1, contains the rich patterning and compositional structure reminiscent of needlework. It is this obsessive and deeply gratifying ornamentation in Barton's work that has propelled her to become one of Australia's most desirable contemporary artists.

1. The artist quoted in Baker, C., 'Basic Instinct: Rabbit Protectors and Pussy Lovers', Oyster Magazine, vol. 43, December 2002 - January 2003
2. Tunnicliffe, W., Wilderness, Balnaves Contemporary: Painting, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2010, p. 21