Artist El­iz­a­beth Bar­nett’s work has taken a new di­rec­tion since mov­ing to Mace­don with her fam­ily.

THERE’S TRUTH IN the say­ing that life imitates art — and of­ten vice versa — and in El­iz­a­beth Bar­nett’s case, life in the coun­try has brought her into the heart of her artis­tic el­e­ment. El­iz­a­beth is a painter and print­maker who lives on the edge of the for­est at Mace­don, be­low the moun­tain of the same name, some 60 kilo­me­tres north of Mel­bourne. The white weath­er­board farm­house home she shares with her part­ner Blake, and their two children — Archer, four, and Beatrice, two — is set among a grove of eu­ca­lypts, shady oaks and or­chard trees, with lush pad­docks run­ning down to a win­ter creek for their pet al­pacas. In­side, the rooms are lay­ered with rich de­tails; ob­jects she col­lects, cre­ates and loves. There are art­works, ce­ram­ics, cher­ished heir­loom pieces, hand-worked tex­tiles, plants and fo­liage. In her stu­dio, a room softly lit by a large win­dow at the back of the house, nu­mer­ous art­works are propped and hung around the walls like the cap­tured vignettes of her world. “My work is di­verse, I do still life and land­scape,” she says, ex­plain­ing that since mov­ing to the coun­try she’s been in­spired to paint land­scapes. “I’ve only just started paint­ing land­scapes since we moved here, and I love to use a lot of colour. I used to do a lot of black and white etch­ing but when I was preg­nant with Archer I didn’t want to use those ma­te­ri­als. I was al­ways a painter in­side, but never al­lowed my­self the free­dom of it un­til re­cently.” El­iz­a­beth and Blake, a pho­tog­ra­pher and videog­ra­pher, moved to the Mace­don farm­house with their children in 2015, when Beatrice was just four weeks old. Prior to that they lived in inner Mel­bourne, with very lit­tle out­door space. It was the children, and El­iz­a­beth’s own fond mem­o­ries of child­hood, that in­spired them to make the move. “I al­ways wanted to live in the coun­try,” she says. “My dad grew up in Tassie in a big beau­ti­ful house called Quamby (now Quamby Es­tate, a bou­tique ho­tel at Ha­gley in north­ern Tas­ma­nia) and it’s al­ways been in the back of my mind. I had a real affin­ity for that farm. My grandpa bought the house in 1910 and he and my granny ran it as a big farm with black An­gus for a long time. Then my granny ran it after he died, un­til she re­mar­ried and moved to Launce­s­ton.” (Coun­try Style fea­tured El­iz­a­beth’s grand­mother, Sal­lie, Lady Fer­rall and her el­e­gant Gothic style home, El­phin House in Launce­s­ton in July 2001.) While they searched Vic­to­ria’s re­gional ar­eas, and con­sid­ered mov­ing to Red Hill near where El­iz­a­beth’s par­ents live in Flin­ders, they of­ten vis­ited a friend at Wood­end in the Mace­don ranges. “We were com­ing up for breaks and do­ing trips around this re­gion. The com­mu­nity up here kind of sold us, the schools are great and we fell in love with the place.” They first saw their five-hectare property on­line. “I thought it looked in­ter­est­ing but com­pletely dis­missed it as way too >

much, but the agent said we re­ally should go to see it, as an ex­am­ple of what you could do when you ren­o­vate a house.” It was meant to be. “Blake said as we drove in, ‘You’re go­ing to fall in love with this place, it will be the one.’ I said, ‘No, no.’ But we drove in and saw all those beau­ti­ful trees…” Built in the 1920s, the house had be­longed to a lo­cal doc­tor at one stage, and the pre­vi­ous own­ers — one of whom was the fur­ni­ture maker that did all the cab­i­netry and join­ery — had com­pletely gut­ted and ren­o­vated it with lit­tle re­main­ing for El­iz­a­beth and Blake to do other than move in and add their own fin­ish­ing touches. Apart from in­stalling so­lar pan­els and con­vert­ing to an elec­tric hot water sys­tem from gas, the main changes have been cos­metic. “My god­mother helped me and took me to The Cur­tain Ex­change for all the cur­tains, and we put all new lights in,” says El­iz­a­beth. The cou­ple’s large art col­lec­tion adorns the walls and in­cludes paint­ings and works by friends and old pho­tos from both their fam­i­lies. Other favourite pieces have been in­her­ited, some from her grand­moth­ers, who were also pain­ters and sadly both passed away just be­fore El­iz­a­beth moved in. One piece — a mar­ble topped carv­ing ta­ble — sat in Quamby a long time ago. “It was pretty sad but I feel like my gran­nies have come with me, be­cause we’ve in­her­ited a lot of their fur­ni­ture,” says El­iz­a­beth. Ex­am­ples of El­iz­a­beth’s needle­work are also scat­tered around. The five al­pacas — two ba­bies have been born since the fam­ily adopted the first three — aren’t just pets; El­iz­a­beth has started spin­ning their wool as another cre­ative out­let. In 2016 El­iz­a­beth was part of a col­lab­o­ra­tion with The De­sign Files to cre­ate a home­wares col­lec­tion for their Goods home ac­ces­sories range. Cur­rently she is work­ing on com­mis­sioned pieces and works in wa­ter­colour, acrylics and oils for a show in May. Mean­while, Blake is study­ing per­ma­cul­ture and start­ing a mar­ket gar­den, of­fer­ing pro­duce to friends. “We’ve done a lot in the gar­den and Blake’s plan­ning to take next year off to do stuff around here. At first he wasn’t as keen to move to the coun­try as me, but now he loves it. We both love it.” El­iz­a­beth’s ex­hi­bi­tion, In All Weather, is at The Hap­pen­store, Sydney, from May 12th–26th. the­hap­pen­ For more in­for­ma­tion about her work, visit eliz­a­beth­bar­

FROM LEFT El­iz­a­beth’s home is sur­rounded by a large gar­den; in the kitchen, a Wingnut and Co planter, teapot by Katia Car­letti and Ni­amh Minogue cup from Guild of Ob­jects and ce­ram­ics made by El­iz­a­beth her­self. FAC­ING PAGE, CLOCK­WISE, FROM TOP LEFT...


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