The Berry Consols is an exhibition of paintings by Craig Barrett inspired by his fascination with the natural, cultural and built landscapes around his home in Creswick, Victoria. Craig moved to Creswick nearly five years ago. He sought the pre-European contact of the Indigenous Dja Dja Wurrung people, the goldrush history, and the geological history. During these investigations he found a 19th century gold mining landscape known as the Berry Consols.
Craig has been fascinated with the relationship between natural and human history since childhood. “It seems like forever that I have picked up rocks, or seashells, or seed pods, or gazed at the moon and the stars. Rocks especially held a very mysterious fascination for me. I somehow seemed to ‘feel’ their age; their stories”, he said.
As a young backpacker in his early twenties, Craig worked for mineral exploration companies in North Queensland. He still searches for fossils and fossicks over old mining heaps, not for gold, rather for other geological stories. Shards of slate or quartz embedded with other minerals give clues to our world way beyond the human experience. “The ground we walk upon has so many layers of stories”, he said.
The Berry Consols are a series of abandoned gold mines just to the north of Creswick. This place brought a lot of Craig’s interests together, with yet another - the aesthetics of the mining history. The Berry Consols are a line of deep lead mines that traced the ancient gold-bearing riverbeds that were long ago covered by the lava flows of the newer volcanoes of central and western Victoria. Of course, these 19th century mines have left huge environmental problems that will be present for many years.
Nature’s extraordinary regenerative capacity looms large at the Berry Consols. Despite the environmental damage, this exploited landscape has emerged with a unique and special beauty. In recent years Craig has become enchanted with the shapes and colours of the mullock heaps that dominate the landscape at the Berry Consols. “They never look the same each hour or day, depending on the light or the season. It is not just the pictorial aspect that I respond to. When you look at these heaps of mining detritus, once again, you can see layer upon layer”, he said.
Image: Craig Barrett, ‘Madam Berry No.3’ 2019 (detail), oil on linen, 51cm x 70cm