Since winning the 2008 Archibald Prize, Del Kathryn Barton has been one of the most rapidly rising stars in the Australian contemporary art world. Barton's richly colourful and hallucinogenic works offer a complex, often disorienting meditation upon the nature of reality. Barton is a woman on a crusade, to express herself as honestly as she can in her work - a strange and magical world of fecund landscapes populated by hermaphrodites and animal familiars.
Artists at Work follows the normally reclusive Barton as she creates a new work for Wilderness, a group show at the Art Gallery of NSW. For Barton the theme of the show is close to her heart, "I'm trying to create this very fluid and dynamic interconnection with the figure and the landscape. The idea of wilderness in a very broad and inclusive sense... the inner wilderness or the emotional wilderness...".
Over a number of months, Barton weaves her magic on a large canvas - painstakingly drawing all manner of strange creatures, painting, dotting, and splattering her way to completion. In the contemporary art world where concept is king, Barton's work is strangely unfashionable and often misunderstood. Her incredibly detailed and embellished canvases hark back to an era more comfortable with visions of excess than the cool strains of the modernist aesthetic. However, to her legions of fans from all walks of life, her work speaks of many things - of motherhood, abundance and a sexual utopia.
The documentary explores the inspiration behind her surreal work: from her mysterious 'undiagnosed' childhood illness to her sexually explicit dreams and how being a mother has led to a dramatic change in her work.