Art as a tool for change and telling women's stories:
In conversation with
Del Kathryn Barton

Friday 24 May 2024

Here at MECCA M-POWER, we strongly believe in the ability of impactful storytelling that fosters collective understanding and action.

Art can be used as a powerful tool to drive change - including gender equality and centring the female experience - and no one embodies this more than Australian artist Del Kathryn Barton. We were honoured to be given the opportunity to chat with Barton about the role of art in advocating for a better world and being a means of advocacy.

In the event Barton is not on your radar - her work combines traditional painting techniques with contemporary design and a psychedelic flair - with a strong focus on the female experience, motherhood, and sexuality. She won the Archibald Prize in 2008 with her powerful self-portrait with her children, You are what is most beautiful about me, a self-portrait with Kell and Arella. “This painting celebrates the love I have for my two children and how my relationship with them has radically informed and indeed transformed my understanding of who I am,” she said at the time.

“The title of the work – you are what is most beautiful about me – alludes to that utterly profound ‘in-loveness’ that all mothers have for their children. Both my children have taken my world by storm and very little compares to the devotion I feel for them both. The intensity of this emotion is not something that I could have prepared myself for. The alchemy of life offered forth from my inhabitable woman’s body is perhaps the greatest gift of my life.”

You are what is most beautiful about me, a self-portrait with Kell and Arella.

- by Del Kathryn Barton

The theme of womanhood has continued to shine through her art in the years after winning the Archibald Prize. One of our favourites here at MECCA M-POWER is Of Pink Planets, which is part of our growing art collection here at MECCA.Of Pink Planets remains one of my favourites!” Barton says.“This queen distils the energetic and emotional core of my practice so truthfully - one of female empowerment. This fully embodied protagonist is quite simply the fertile centre of the universe! BOOM!”


So what made Barton want to be an artist and creative in the first place? “From my earliest memories as a child, the act of making (especially drawing) radically ignited all aspects of my being. The tangible engagement of thinking and creating with my hands often felt like a lifeline as I continued to navigate a challenging brain-chemistry,” Barton tells MECCA M-POWER.  In many ways my pursuit of the life of a creative never felt like a choice, more like the only way I could survive the human experience.”

She strongly believes that art has a role in advocating for a better world. “In my opinion, inherent to this is the experience of wonderment, joy, provocation, and mystery great art can evoke and offer.” She says that reaching audiences in both challenging and meaningful ways is at the core of what she does. “Having said that, I am so aware that in order to do this with truth, authenticity and personal agency I must preserve the sacredness and privacy of my creative life at all costs! This remains a daily challenge. I have found that thinking too much about audiences can be crippling to the single-minded-drive and passion needed to create the bravest work I can. It’s a conundrum that is particularly palpable within the realisation of long-format film craft.”


So what is it about art that she thinks leads to healing, either for herself, or for an audience? “People sharing healing and personal responses are the most moving for me and make the toughest parts of ‘process’ so worth it! In terms of my own healing and growing (which is ongoing), one aspect of the creative life always strikes me,” she tells M-POWER. “Every day I step into the studio I must be totally present within myself. This demands constant inner-work and can be brutal - there is no hiding from the hard stuff! But honestly what a gift at the same time.”


Her new documentary Blaze, launching as part of Domestic Violence Awareness month in partnership with Domestic Violence NSW, highlights the unique experience and healing journey of children who witness or experience gendered and domestic violence. Given the rallies across the country and reckoning with gender-based violence, never has there been a more important time to back female storytelling and platforming the voices and stories that need to be heard.

As part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Domestic Violence NSW invites you to join one of our special community film screenings of ‘Blaze’ directed by Archibald prize winning artist Del Kathryn Barton. The screening will be followed by a recorded conversation with the film’s director – allowing us to unpack some of the advocacy within the film.”

SYDNEY – Friday 24 May @ 5:15 – 7:30 PM – Tickets Here

BEGA – Wednesday 22 May @ 3:30 – 5:30 PM – Tickets Here

ORANGE – Thursday 30 May @ 6:00 – 9:00 PM – Tickets Here