Tasmanian Gothic - the art of Elizabeth Barsham
cover image: Bones of the Ancestors oil on canvas; 76 cm x 152 cm
Elizabeth Barsham is an award-winning artist working in Tasmania, Australia's island state.
What do you find when the tide goes out? Abandoned fishing nets are ubiquitous, and I've found pretty much everything in this painting on a seashore somewhere. Except the mermaid. I haven't found a mermaid. I really don't want to.
Mermaids are the ultimate Dangerous Women, luring poor randy little innocent sailor-boys to their doom or something. When I was in primary school we learnt a sea shanty that turns out to have been popular among sailors in the seventeenth century, if not earlier. It describes a Mermaid sitting on a rock “with a comb and a glass in her hand”, an image you can find in fourteenth century manuscripts, so it's been around for a long time.
Seeing what is happening to the oceans, I reckon these days she'd be angrier and a lot nastier than the most degenerate old salt could imagine. But what if she's moved with the times? What if she's traded her mirror for the modern symbol of vanity – the phone, and amuses herself taking selfies, sexting her victims and enthusiastically spreading mayhem and disinformation on social media?
Don't imagine for a moment that a twenty-first century mermaid is a cute, sanitised fishy Disney Princess. And really, really, hope you don't meet one when the tide goes out.
See When the Tide Goes Out and other paintings in the Dangerous Women exhibition at Nolan Gallery, Salamanca Arts Centre, Hobart. On show throughout July 2020.
If you want to hear a version of the sea shanty, here's a link
Gallery One: People and Places
Gallery Two: King Island Gothic
Gallery Three: Haunted Landscape
Gallery Four: Excursions and Adventures
In Hobart, Elizabeth Barsham is represented by Nolan Gallery and Nolan School of Art, adjacent to the historic Long Gallery on the first floor of 77 Salamanca Place, Hobart.
Art, Life and History - Elizabeth Barsham's blogs
All content on this website © E.M. Christensen contact the artist: firstname.lastname@example.org