ACMI Presents: Oscar Wilde’s The Nightingale + the Rose by Artist Del Kathryn Barton

Artwork by Del Kathryn Barton. Photography by Lara Antonelli-Leorke.

The latest ACMI exhibition is a remarkable feat of extraordinary vision, resplendently intricate storytelling and creative collaboration.

Two-time Archibald Prize winning artist, Del Kathryn Barton, began a journey to tell the reinterpreted story of Oscar Wilde’s 1888 fairytale, The Nightingale and the Rose via a series of artworks. These colourful and visceral works have now been made into a short animated film, with the aid of acclaimed Australian filmmaker Brendan Fletcher.


Pen To Paper Media attended the exhibition opening of Del Kathryn Barton: The Nightingale and the Rose at ACMI in Melbourne on Tuesday night, which was sponsored by Hendrick’s Gin (whose bar was in fact a claw-footed bathtub with Oscar Wilde’s famous quote, “I can resist everything but temptation” scrawled along the lip). The utterly brilliant and award-winning Australian actor, Geoffrey Rush was also in attendance, as the evening was opened by ACMI Director and CEO, Katrina Sedgwick, followed by both Barton and Fletcher addressing the crowd and sharing their thanks to the creative collaborators that enabled them to create and share this exquisite story of the Nightingale and the Rose.

Actor Geoffrey Rush with artist Del Kathryn Barton and director Brendan Fletcher.

The journey of the Nightingale was a serendipitous one to say the least. Barton had casually mentioned to Fletcher that she would love to see her artworks brought to life on celluloid. Neither had a background in animation, however they pursued the idea and approached award-winning post-production house, Method Studios, to create their 14-minute animation. Not only was Barton’s reinterpreted Nightingale and her colourful cast of characters going to awaken from their motionless slumber, but they were going to be voiced by none other than renowned Australian actors Geoffrey Rush, David Wenham and Mia Wasikowska, whilst the stirring score was created by Australian singer-songwriter, Sarah Blasko. This creative cocktail of Australian talent was so potent there was no way audiences would be able to resist the temptation to be utterly immersed in this rich, magical, poignant and whimsical world of The Nightingale and the Rose. Indeed, all of those in attendance were swept up by the captivating force of the exhibition, happy to drink it in and allow the Nightingale’s story to envelope them.


The story itself by Wilde is an enchanting tale of unrequited love and ultimate sacrifice. Barton’s creation is utterly alluring; it draws you in and takes your breath away. Her momentous aptitude for detail, colour, depth and originality is truly beautiful, with tinges of melancholia and the macabre lingering just under the surface. The exhibition showcases illustrations, paintings, props and quotes, as well as a screening of the animated film.It truly is a spell-binding and enchanting creation, whose hauntingly beautiful visions will linger in your mind long after you leave the darkness of ACMI’s Gallery 2. The Nightingale, her world and her ardent story, which is so passionately, colourfully and thoughtfully brought to life by Barton and her creative team, stunningly blurs the lines between the realms of the real and the imagined.


Don’t miss out on experiencing this multi-faceted creative triumph. Del Kathryn Barton: The Nightingale and the Rose will show at ACMI from 21 June to 18 September, 2016. To find out more about The Nightingale and the Rose, head to:




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