LIFE IN COLOUR
MARNIE GILDER’S ART AND FAMILY LIFE HAVE BEEN INVIGORATED AFTER MOVING BACK TO SOUTH AUSTRALIA’S BAROSSA AND FINDING A SMALL FARM TO CALL HOME.
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 marniegilder.com, or marniewark.com
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.