ACMI's Del Kathryn Barton: The Nightingale and the Rose will show at the Yarra Ranges Regional Museum from Sat 20 Oct – Sun 3 Feb. Celebrating the extraordinary collaboration between two-time Archibald Prize winner Del Kathryn Barton and acclaimed filmmaker Brendan Fletcher, this exhibition traces the remarkable adaptation of Oscar Wilde's 19th-century classic into a hauntingly beautiful animated film.
This free exhibition transforms the Yarra Ranges Regional Museum space into an immersive and intricate Barton-inspired world: colourful, bold, enchanting, brooding and revealing.
The film itself is a landmark in contemporary moving image, voiced by some of Australia's most celebrated actors, including Mia Wasikowska, David Wenham and Geoffrey Rush, and layered with a stirring score by Australian singer-songwriter Sarah Blasko.
Audiences can view the 14-minute animation within the exhibition space, and then make their way through a lush display of objects and artworks that explore the incredible workings behind this production linking classic text to canvas, sculpture to screen. Also on display, is a selection of stunning and never-before-seen handmade props, material from the animation archival material, and a 1913 edition of Wilde's anthology.
"Each exhibition piece shows how this classic story was interpreted at first through Barton's sophisticated artistic lens, then enlivened by Fletcher's brilliant filmic mind and Method Studio's deft animating hand, in conjunction with a group of creatives working across the full spectrum of moving image arts," said ACMI Curator Jess Bram.
Originally conceived as a collection of eight paintings and four drawings, the film has its genesis in a commission by Art&Australia. The publishing house asked Barton in 2010 to reimagine a timeless fairytale in her signature aesthetic and technique. A long-time aficionado of Wilde's works, Barton was struck by using his 'The Nightingale and the Rose' as her inspiration – one of the most poignant of Wilde's stories and so closely related to her own work in its construction of an emboldened but vulnerable feminine protagonist. Produced over the course of two years, Barton's series brings Wilde's classic to life in her inimitable meditative and meticulous style.
"When I first discovered Oscar Wilde's radical fairy story 'The Nightingale and the Rose' as a teenager, it seemed to me that the character of the Nightingale breathed with the energy of a true artist," said Barton. "Nightingale gives completely of her deepest essence in her life choices. She is a little hero of mine. From the making of my paintings and drawings for the book project, to a three year (and often agonising) marathon making the animation, the 'Nightingale' experience has been an extraordinary and multifaceted creative journey."
It was a moment of synchronicity when Barton mentioned to esteemed Australian director and friend Brendan Fletcher that she was eager to transform her Nightingale world into a short film. Though neither at the time possessed an animation background, together they took on the project with a unified vision to offer something new and different to the genre, whilst retaining the spirit of Wilde's prose and Barton's signature aesthetic.
"I was deeply inspired by Del's heartfelt passion for The Nightingale story and her wildly original artistic vision, but I'd also felt for a long time that her work had an unexplored cinematic quality to it," said Fletcher.
After Fletcher and Barton had worked together on the film for a year, they recruited the expertise of award-winning visual effects and post-production house Method Studios in a collaboration that would take an additional two years. The final creation is an intense but remarkably ethereal and visceral gesture to the tragic beauty and earnestness of Wilde's tale.
First published in 1888 as part of Oscar Wilde's renowned anthology The Happy Prince and Other Tales, 'The Nightingale and the Rose' is a story of unrequited love, of transformation, metamorphosis and ultimately sacrifice. More tragedy than traditional fairy-tale, it tells of the Nightingale, who surrenders her life so that the Student may offer a single red rose to the girl that he adores, only for his gift to be rejected. When the object of his passions opts for jewels over the flower, the Student flings his rose into the gutter and renounces love completely.
Enchanting in its creation of fanciful characters – trees, flowers and animals that come to life in full speech – 'The Nightingale and the Rose' gives voice to Wilde's musings about the painful realisation of disappointed desire. And yet, through the sweet vulnerability of the Nightingale's song, there exists a captivating beauty, a passionate earnestness and emboldened integrity that defies the calamity of her betrayal.
Yarra Ranges Regional Museum invites you to interact with the exhibition at a number of satellite events including…
Wilde Readings in the Park – Wednesday 21 Nov, 6.30pm
Picnic with Michael Veitch, John Wood and friends for Oscar Wilde readings served with cello, opera and the sweet song of a Nightingale.
VENUE: Yarra Ranges Museum then move to Melba Park, 35-37 Castella Street, Lilydale
Meet the Curator – Thursday 22 Nov, 11.00am
Join ACMI's Curator, Jess Bram as she reveals the highlights of producing the mesmerising and atmospheric exhibition Del Kathryn Barton: The Nightingale and the Rose.
VENUE: Yarra Ranges Museum, 35-37 Castella Street, Lilydale
FREE Bookings essential
Bubbles and Barton ... a Wilde night at the Museum – Thursday 17 Jan, 6.30pm - 9.30pm
Immerse yourself in the work of Del Kathryn Barton's The Nightingale & the Rose whilst enjoying pop-up performances, music, sipping on summer bubbles and the occasional Original Oscar cocktail. A balmy night of fun inspired by a heady mix of artistic genius.
VENUE: Yarra Ranges Museum, 35-37 Castella Street, Lilydale
Through an artistic layering of original works, alongside the breathtakingly beautiful hand-crafted paper props, snapshots of the stop-motion and digital animation process and behind-the-scenes interviews with the creative team, see Oscar Wilde'sThe Nightingale and the Rose magically brought to life for contemporary audiences.
Del Kathryn Barton: The Nightingale and the Rose will show at Yarra Ranges Regional Museum from Sat 20 Oct – Sun 3 Feb. Entry to the exhibition is FREE. For more information: www.culturetracks.info