Menzies Art Brands



As vision grows I see more. I bring back materials from the landscape and place them around. Little things lying on ledges, or laid out on the floor or in the garden. They are then available to be looked at in my space. As things are moved about, there are more discoveries, more is revealed.1

Rosalie Gascoignes distinctive vision and highly personal modernist abstract assemblages have earned the artist a unique and enduring position of preeminence in Australian contemporary art. Influenced by the environment and the materials in her immediate surroundings, Gascoignes work is often an extraordinary journey of discovery, renewal and chance, underpinned by an unwavering confidence in her intuitive judgement.

In Africa 1995, seemingly random coloured and weathered planks of wood have been fused together and charged with renewed purpose to create a work of great rhythm, presence and conviction. As Deborah Clark, curator and arts writer has noted: The visceral effect of Gascoignes work arises from her extraordinary manipulation of unlikely materials, and in her deft, refined exploration of colour, texture, shape and repetition Divested of their original function, reconstituted and rearranged, her materials nonetheless retain the patina of their previous lives; indeed the marks and scarring of ageing and weathering are intrinsic to the life inherent in Gascoignes art.2 The relatively high levels of manipulation and reconfiguration of materials undertaken by Gascoigne are concealed by her deft employment of a deceptively simple overriding structure.

Gascoigne has employed in Africa her signature grid-like compositional structure, which is perhaps the most recognisable and important single element uniting major works from the latter half of her relatively short but stellar career. Deborah Edwards, curator of a major survey exhibition of Gascoignes work explains the grid, as an essentially inorganic motif, and one self-consciously aligned to Modernism, became a crucial structuring principle for Gascoigne used in conjunction with manufactured materials, it further distances her work from claims to a corresponding reality; from the inference of a real order to that of the imagined.3

While Gascoigne was inspired by landscape and her materials were sourced strictly from her local region of Monaro, she never intended for her work to be a realist depiction of landscape. Her late husband, Ben Gascoigne, recalled in a statement which could equally be applied to Africa: what she tried to convey was not so much the appearance of our local countryside, rather its feeling the response it aroused in the viewer.4 Instead of a literal representation of landscape, Gascoigne was determined to evoke the feelings she sensed in response to landscape. In conversation with Max Cullen she argued I am not making pictures, I make feelings. I want to make art without telling a story; it must be allusive, lyrical.5

Africa, like the best assemblages of Gascoignes oeuvre, benefits from her use of modernist strategies, her simple but complex means of construction, those of fragmentation, re-assemblage, repetition, tessellation and compression6 Gascoigne enjoyed foraging and amassing these materials which had been bleached and weathered with time and then cramming them up thick in her composition like pomegranate seeds.7

Gascoignes Africa happily follows significant milestones in her career. She had already received the prestigious honour of being appointed the first woman to represent Australia at the Venice Biennale in 1982. She had also created arguably her pivotal and most highly sought after series of works constructed from the famous yellow Schweppes soft drink crates and brilliant yellow reflective road signs, culminating in epic works such as Monaro 1989 and Metropolis 1999, in the collections of the Art Gallery of Western Australia and the Art Gallery of New South Wales respectively.

More than twenty years after her passing, Gascoignes spectacularly idiosyncratic vision and signature compositional resolution have secured her place as one of the great Australian landscape artists of the twentieth century. The major accolades and achievements accrued by the artist over her exceptional twenty-five year career also attest to her being undoubtedly one of Australias most highly acclaimed, revered and much loved artists. Gascoignes work can be found in all major state galleries and many regional collections, in addition to international institutions such as the National Art Gallery, Wellington and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

1. Gascoigne, R., in Edwards, D., Rosalie Gascoigne: Material as Landscape, exhibition catalogue, 14 November 1997- 11 January 1998, The Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 1998
2. Clark, D., Standing on the Mountain: The Landscape impulse in Rosalie Gascoignes Art, in Gellanty, K., Rosalie Gascoigne, exhibition catalogue, National Gallery of Victoria, 2008, pp.32-33
3. Edwards, D., p.13
4. Ben Gascoigne, interview,
5. Rosalie Gascoigne interview with Max Cullen, Sunday, Nine Network, 07/12/98
6. Edwards, D., p.11
7. Rosalie Gascoigne in Macdonald, V., Rosalie Gascoigne, Regaro Pty Ltd, Sydney 1998, p.34

Marina Brennan BA (Hons)


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