MEANT TO BE
MOVING TO MACEDON IN CENTRAL VICTORIA FUELLED ARTIST ELIZABETH BARNETT’S CREATIVITY AND GAVE HER FAMILY SPACE TO FLOURISH.
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. thehappenstore.com. For more information about her work, visit elizabethbarnett.com
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 Elizabeth with Archer and Beatrice; working on a preliminary watercolour painting; floral inspiration; a ‘Circle Bulb’ crocheted pendant shade from Big Chair hangs over the dining table, which was made with recycled floorboards from an old bowling alley in Northcote. For stockist details, see page 135.