The directions to find Barb Hart’s studio in the hinterland about 20 minutes from Gympie make it seem like you are going to need at least packed lunch, a few bottles of water, and a change of clothes, if not a full camping set-up in case of emergencies. The talk of creek crossings, winding roads, hills, dirt tracks and more made me dubious about the ability of my small sedan to make the journey, but in the end getting to this secluded and private retreat was not so hard as it sounded. It was only an hour from my home in Noosa and there I was, with no mobile phone coverage, satellite internet, and the peace and quiet of living away from the maddening crowd. The reward for the journey is a magnificent view from the majestic old Queenslander inhabited by Barb and husband John, and a similar view from Barb’s expansive studio in a tin shed on the property.
Barb shares the entrance to her studio with a tractor and various pieces of farm equipment, and around about the shed inquisitive, velvety cows make their presence felt. Inside, it’s an artist’s working space, but one with an eye out for the mud wasp and other critters that can play havoc with art works. Barb unwrapped and unpacked the many and varied works she has made for the ‘Now and Then’ exhibition and I spent a pleasant morning photographing and talking about the work before repairing to the house for a cup of tea.
Barb grew up on a cattle property in the Lockyer Valley and retains many connections with her heritage and a strong connection with the land, critters and the landscape. Somehow the natural environment and living things creep into the conversation and the work that she makes. Her studio and her works for ‘Now and Then’ reflect her eclectic and many faceted fascination with objects and history, and the make/do heritage of a country girl at peace with herself and the world.
The pieces Barb has made for ‘Now and Then’ reflect her response to objects in the Museum collections, but also her willingness and desire to enter into the conversations of other artists in the exhibition, spinning off from and adding her own twist to their interpretations and responses. Her works are varied and intensely personal and almost everyone will find something that speaks to them.
‘Now and Then’ opens at Gympie Regional Gallery on March 4th. There will be a curator and artist talk forum on March 28th at the gallery.