Recently we had the great privilege of speaking with the beautiful and incredibly talented artist Elizabeth Barnett at her home in the Macedon Ranges. She spoke so poetically about her connection to the natural world and her views on balance being an ebb and flow - a constant state of flux. It was a truly grounding experience and we hope you dive in and relish her words just as as we did.
Can you share a little more about yourself, your upbringing, and background — what has been integral in becoming the woman you are today?
I was born in Melbourne and lived by the bay and have always had an affinity with the natural environment. After living in Richmond for 13 years with my partner and two small children we moved out to the Macedon Ranges 4 years ago.
My mother and grandmothers were craftswomen and that has really informed my love for the handmade, home cooking and tending a garden.
What have been the most important touchstones in your understanding of art and aesthetics?
Nature and the natural world have greatly informed my art practice as has having kids. My way of looking at the world has deepened and honed in on smaller details.
Often we discuss that the narrative around “balance” needs to be rewritten in order to avoid having two separate work/home "identities". How does this manifest for you as a passionate working mother?
I definitely don’t achieve a ‘balance’ except for brief moments in the days from time to time and they are golden. I also think the idea of balance is a bit limiting, I prefer to think of it as an ebb and flow, an upsurge and a downhill, learning and unlearning, we are always in flux and that is a beautiful and human thing.
What have been some recent sources of inspiration or personal connection?
I’ve been reading again after a long hiatus after having kids. The magical world of storytelling is so wonderful to get lost in. I’ve just started reading The Overstory by Richard Powers. It’s all about trees and human connections with nature and it’s beautiful but heartbreaking.
I’ve also become really interested in broadening my poetry library and have been enjoying some old favourites as well as discovering some more contemporary names. Poetry and painting have a huge link for me. In a way, I want my work to be like a poem, a bridge between words and images.
What senses, sensations, and emotive realities are most defined for you when you’re out in nature?
When I am in nature my heart rate slows a little and my eyes adjust to the contrast of shadows and bright light beneath the canopy of green, my ears tune in to the sounds of the bush and each step becomes like a meditation.
What has living in the countryside taught you about yourself and your creative process?
Living out in the country has taught me to slow down, savour the seasons, and to be grateful every day for this incredible world we inhabit.
How could you be softer with yourself, embrace more fluidity, more water?
I do that terrible negative self-talk thing, which I know that as I do it, it’s bad for my heart; I need to be kinder to myself. In winter I do get a bit more insular so my ability to be more fluid is hindered somewhat by needing to cosy up by the fire however come spring I know that will change again. I can already see blossoms beginning on the trees at our place and I know spring is around the corner.
Alternatively, what area in your life is craving a bit more edge, more fire?
Lately there’s been enough spot fires with children and a busy studio life!
How do you address periods of procrastination or self-doubt?
Yoga or a bush walk usually resets me if I’m feeling self-doubt or if I can’t push past a point mentally or with my work.
What is a current curiosity for you?
Rare breed sheep.
What is a favourite quotation of yours?
“I’m not food, I’m people” (my three-year old daughter!)
We highly recommend following her on Instagram if you are not already.
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