A tough de­ci­sion to move from their farm in Vic­to­ria to a vine­yard in the Barossa, SA, has brought artist Marnie Gilder and her fam­ily new op­por­tu­ni­ties.

RE­TURN­ING TO THE BAROSSA IN 2015 has brought Marnie Gilder back to her fam­ily roots and, as an artist, full cir­cle. Marnie — who grew up in the Barossa as Marnie Wark and es­tab­lished her­self as an artist in South Australia — now lives on a small farm at Mount Mcken­zie with her hus­band Rob and their children, Annabelle, nine, and Alf, six. Marnie has just com­pleted a com­mis­sioned mu­ral on The Co-op store in the main street of Nu­ri­ootpa — the largest piece of pub­lic art in the Barossa Val­ley to date. “It’s 30 me­tres long and by far the largest art­work I’ve ever cre­ated,” she says. “I’m 43, and at an age now where I’m up for a few more chal­lenges, and paint­ing large-scale works is in­vig­o­rat­ing, phys­i­cal and ex­cit­ing. It was a won­der­ful project where I had 38 vol­un­teers from the com­mu­nity paint with me. And be­ing back in the Barossa, where I have my net­work that I ini­tially set up 18 years ago, has meant I’ve been able to do a lot more Marnie Wark paint­ings — hence, this com­mis­sion.” Marnie and Rob, their children and two faith­ful work­ing dogs, Zoe and Jock, moved from Glen­fal­loch — a Vic­to­rian High Coun­try graz­ing property on the Ma­cal­is­ter River at Li­cola — in July, 2015. Glen­fal­loch had been in the Gilder fam­ily for more than a cen­tury and when Rob took the helm of the 5000-hectare farm, his vi­sion was to leave the land in bet­ter shape than he found it. But a cy­cle of nat­u­ral dis­as­ters, floods and fires kept pre­sent­ing daunt­ing chal­lenges. He and Marnie had met dur­ing one of the floods in 2007. Their fam­i­lies had long­stand­ing friend­ships and Marnie had come, at Rob’s sis­ter’s bid­ding, to lend a hand in the flood. It was there she and Rob met for the first time; within about three months they were get­ting mar­ried. “It was a whirl­wind!” says Marnie. Jug­gling moth­er­hood in the iso­la­tion of Glen­fal­loch in the alpine re­gion of east Gipp­s­land made it dif­fi­cult for Marnie to work on her art. Also, the fact that there was no longer a pri­mary school in Li­cola (there was when Rob was grow­ing up) meant the cou­ple were apart a lot, with Marnie and the children stay­ing at a sec­ond house in Sale, a 90-minute drive down a wind­ing moun­tain­ous road, dur­ing the week. It was there that she started mak­ing screen prints un­der her mar­ried name, Marnie Gilder. “As ‘Marnie Wark’ I couldn’t sell any work other than through my art dealer but just get­ting a freight truck to Glen­fal­loch — and even Sale — was a lo­gis­ti­cal night­mare. In Sale, I made Marnie Gilder branded art­works and that worked beau­ti­fully for an on­line store.” It was around this time that the cou­ple be­gan an on­go­ing con­ver­sa­tion about what was best for the fam­ily’s fu­ture, be­cause they knew they wanted to raise their children to­gether, un­der one roof. Then in 2014, after yet another bush­fire, they de­cided it was time to move on. “We made the de­ci­sion to sell in the midst of one of the bush­fires. We didn’t think we could go through that again, and it was time to make a change… With Rob away at the farm, I felt I needed more fam­ily sup­port, which we didn’t have in Gipp­s­land. I missed hav­ing my par­ents around, par­tic­u­larly for Annabelle and Alf.” It was while vis­it­ing Marnie’s par­ents Di and James Wark, who live at Stonewell in the Barossa, that they found their farm: “Ba­si­cally one big 50-acre pad­dock, with another 10 acres next door and a very old Barossa cot­tage on it, which we’re do­ing up as ac­com­mo­da­tion.” The main block had a 1980s house, which they plan to ren­o­vate, but Marnie says it was the “trees, the views, and the land­scape” that they fell in love with. As hard as it was for Rob to leave his fam­ily home, the Barossa was an at­trac­tive op­tion. “He bought Mum and Dad’s vine­yard — I had helped them plant it when I was a teenager — so when we moved it meant Rob had an in­ter­est straight away. Plus, he al­ready loved the Barossa be­fore meet­ing me; he had friends here, and he is very in­ter­ested in food and wine. He al­ready knew it was a place that had a won­der­ful qual­ity of life.” Rob has been busy, with their shi­raz grapes go­ing to Teusner Wines and Yalumba Win­ery, while their neigh­bours and now good friends, Sam and Emily Hayes from Cor­ner­stone Stud, ag­ist some of their thor­ough­bred year­lings on the property. “We’ve been build­ing horse fenc­ing and pad­docks for ag­ist­ing mares and foals, plant­ing trees and putting in laneways, troughs and bores, a new shed and a drive­way,” says Rob. “I loved what I was do­ing be­fore, but it’s been a great move and it’s much bet­ter here for the fam­ily and kids. It’s en­joy­able, pur­pose­ful and less stress­ful and the pos­si­bil­i­ties of what we can cre­ate here are ex­cit­ing.” >

The children have also hap­pily set­tled into school at Nu­ri­ootpa and their new life in the Barossa. “Annabelle is in­ter­ested in agri­cul­ture — farm­ing seems to get into your blood and she loves be­ing out­doors plant­ing trees with Rob,” says Marnie. Marnie works with acrylics and paints in her stu­dio in an old build­ing at the nearby town of An­gas­ton, about 10 min­utes away from their farm. “It’s lovely to have a work­ing space away from home,” she says. “I work dur­ing the school term, and have a lovely con­cen­trated time, and then have a break over the hol­i­days.” Since be­ing back in the Barossa, Marnie has painted im­ages for wine la­bels, in­clud­ing Peter Lehmann Wines and Teusner Wines. “One of the Teusner Wines is called Wark Fam­ily Shi­raz and the other is Big Jim, after my fa­ther’s rooster, and both con­tain shi­raz sourced from our vine­yard,” says Marnie. Cur­rently she’s work­ing to­wards an ex­hi­bi­tion to be held at Yalumba Win­ery at An­gas­ton in Au­gust. “It’s part of the South Aus­tralian Liv­ing Artists Fes­ti­val. They’ll be large ab­stract can­vasses in acrylic,” says Marnie. “In re­gards to the arts in South Australia, I don’t think there’s a bet­ter state to live in — it’s in­cred­i­bly sup­port­ive and ac­ces­si­ble, and the qual­ity of life so fan­tas­tic and full of op­por­tu­ni­ties. And the Barossa feels like it hasn’t even started to reach its full po­ten­tial, which is ex­cit­ing to be part of. It’s great tim­ing for ev­ery­one to be in the Barossa now. And I feel very much like I’m home.” For more in­for­ma­tion about Marnie’s work, visit, or

CLOCK­WISE, FROM ABOVE Jock the kelpie with Rob, Annabelle, Marnie and Alf; Marnie work­ing on a yet un­named piece; a leafy spot on the Gilder fam­ily’s property; Marnie do­ing a rough sketch for a blan­ket de­sign that she is work­ing on un­der her Marnie Gilder brand. She also con­tin­ues to cre­ate work un­der her maiden name, Marnie Wark.

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