TASMANIAN GOTHIC - artwork by Elizabeth Barsham

A poetic re-imagining of the Landscape

Excerpts from The Mercury Saturday Magazine, 14 Apr 2012 (Clyde Selby, Gallery Watch)

King Island, as this artist sees it, is not the home of cerulean blue seas, ozone-enriched pastoral panoramas, gourmet delicacies or scientific and technological innovations.
Rather it remains a place haunted by a past of shipwrecks, violence and ecological plunder that make it easily embraced into her general oeuvre.
Barsham's sense of the dramatic and the surreal [has] given her works a distinctively eccentric appearance.
Integral has been the way she fuses delicately hued folkloric fantasy or imaginings of her own with realism.
This series, however, sees the veneer of idealised nostalgia replaced with scenes that are not just suggestive of the unsavoury but decidedly more confrontational.
For example, giving a nasty-sounding echo of romanticised Victorian-era historicism, with its intrepid deeds of daring-do style, is Men of Business. In composition it could be Charles Stuart approaching Scotland to reclaim his rightful throne, excepting the boat does not transport a bonnie tartan-clad prince but leprous, cadaverous opportunists accompanied by their rapaciously lean dogs. Assuredly, the curious seals will soon be subjected to a "Massacre of the Innocents".
Cold comfort can be had from reflecting upon the fact the colonial-era visitors are the antithesis of compassionate individuals of today who valiantly endeavour to save beached whales and dolphins. Likewise, the Cries of Drowned Sailors is this artist's macabre way of showing how they feared the perils of the deep between Cape Otway and Cape Wickham.
A feral fiend out of feline hell, otherwise called Ship's Cat is in the graphic style of a Manga cartoon with waves similar to those in old Japanese watercolours.

King Island has been re-imagined with a metaphorically dark Gothicism that many will find closer to Poe than poetry.


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