July 21 2018
Artists of the bizarre and surreal challenge preconceptions. They can offend the moralistic, the aesthetically timid or those who perceive time in a linear way. As such, Haunted Landscape is not for the lovers of conventional pastoral painting. The sumptuously rendered Tasmanian hills and valleys are peopled(?) with rotting Thylacines and zombie like ghosts whose outer form expresses the corruption of their inner life.
A bushwalker, Elizabeth Barsham is also an historian and as she tramps through the landscape she knows who has been here before. Her family were early white settlers and she is aware of the displacement of indigenous people for the benefit of colonials. Failed dreams, war widows and lost hikers are also the narratives underpinning these paintings. Or maybe not, because Barsham is also tricky (as Surrealists are prone to be). And in a world of #metoo and a Royal commission into child abuse maybe the female presence in her work is telling a different story.
Elizabeth Barsham is a great painter who narrates the Tasmanian experience through the lens of gender, history and humour, combining great intelligence with sublime technique.