Elizabeth Barnett’s latest solo exhibition, The Growing Season, explores themes of the artist as mother, mothering in a season of intense change and global unrest, the seasons and the natural world. Ultimately, this body of work plays with the desire to find a delicate balance in the home and within the self.
The title of this exhibition makes reference to a farmer’s ‘growing season’, which lasts from spring, until harvest in the late summer/autumn. There is a natural beauty to be found in this time, the miracle of life grown from a tiny seed into a large and life-giving plant. In this there is a poignant metaphor for how life begins within a mother and grows into a unique person – completely separate, yet connected.
There is an urgency in these works to capture the swelling of inspiration felt in a season of growth, both in terms of the summer season in which these works were created and, more personally for Barnett, in pregnancy. Life bursts from the canvas with arresting, bright colour, with the artist’s familiar still life compositions moving beyond the constraints of the canvas. In the exhibition’s title work, the composition quite literally spills across multiple canvases, while in other paintings the same jug, or vase of flowers is repeated as a common thread.
Barnett’s paintings take on their own life, allowing areas of abstraction to dance between more structured form and composition. Opposing colours similarly clash and marry within works, creating paintings that are at once still, but alive with movement. The play between the central object and the background colour is also always a deliberate consideration for Barnett, who often looks to juxtapose colour to create moments of pause of energy.
In these works, Barnett’s colour palette is generally brighter, referencing the summer light in which they were painted. Saturated table cloths of hot pink and white create a stage for a collection of gathered summer blooms (often roses or dahlias), as well as the artist’s favourite objects. One such object is a recently acquired jug, formerly belonging to the Barnett’s grandparents; this object conjures strong memories of childhood for the artists at their warm and welcoming home where food and home-made objects and furniture were in abundance. The grid-like arrangement of Barnett’s smaller works make reference to the artist’s love of craft and quilts, where patchworks of fabrics are stitched together to keep the family warm during cooler nights.
For the artist, it has never felt like a more important time to seek out the beauty and the symbology of the everyday – to appreciate the natural beauty of home where she lives, her garden, her children and the baby growing within her this year.