Posts Tagged ‘Rosalie Gascoigne


Review: ‘Cubism & Australian Art’ at Heide Museum of Modern Art, Bulleen

Exhibition dates: 24th November 2009 – 8th April 2010


Perfect summer fare out at Heide at the moment – relax with a lunch at the new Cafe Vue followed by some vibrantly fresh art in the galleries. In a nicely paced exhibition, Cubism and Australian Art takes you on a journey from the 1920s to the present day, the art revealing itself wonderfully as you move through the galleries.

There are too many individual works to critique but some thoughts and ideas do stand out.


Cezanne’s us of passage, the transition between adjacent shapes, where solid forms are fused with the surrounding space was an important starting point for the beginnings of Cubism. Simultaneity – movement, space and the dynamism of modern life – was matched to Cubism’s new forms of pictorial organisation. The geometries of the Section d’Or (or the Gold Mean), that magical ratio found in all forms, also sounds an important note as it flows through the rhythmic movement and the sensations of temporal reality.

In the work from the 1920s/30s presented in the exhibition the palette of most of the works is subdued, the form of circles and geometrics. There are some beautiful paintings by one of my favorite Australian artists Roy de Maistre and others by Eric Wilson, Sam Atyeo and Jean Appleton (see image below). The feeling of these works is quiet and intense.



There are some evocative works from the 1940s/50s including Godfrey Miller’s ‘Still Life with Musical Instruments’ (1958), Graham King’s ‘Industrial Landscape’ (1959) and Ralph Balson’s ‘Constructive painting’ (1951). ‘The Charcoal Burner’ (1959) by Fred Williams (see image below) is the Australian landscape seen through Cubist eyes, surface and space perfectly commingled in reserved palette, delineated planes. Grace Crowley’s ‘Abstract Painting’ (1947, see image below) is a symphony of colour, plane and form that I would willingly take home any day of the week!



It is the contemporary work that is of most interest in this exhibition. Spatio-temporal reality is distorted as artists push the boundaries of dimensionality. The parameters of reality are blurred and extended through the use of multiple viewpoints and lines of sight. Fresh and spatially aware (like an in joke because everyone recognizes the fragmented ‘nature’ of contemporary existence) we have the sublime ‘Milky Way’ (1995, see image below) by Rosalie Gascoigne and for me the two standout pieces in the exhibition, ‘Bicycles’ (2007) by James Angus and ‘Static No.9 (a small section of something larger)’ (2005) by Daniel Crooks.

Though difficult to see in the photograph of the work (below), ‘Bicycles’ fuses three bicycles into one. “A photo finish made actual, a series of frames at the conclusion of a race transferred permanently into three dimensions.” You look and then look again: three frames into one, three tyres into one, three stands into one, three chains the only singular – like a freeze frame of a motor drive on a camera


or the slight difference of the two images of a Victorian stereoscope made triumvirate (the 3D world of Avatar comes to mind). Static, the bicycle can never work, is redundant, but paradoxically moves at the same time.

Even more mesmerizing is the video work ‘Static No.9 (a small section of something larger)’ by Daniel Crooks. Unfortunately I cannot show you the video but a still from the video can be seen below. Imagine this animated like swirling DNA (in actual fact it is people walking across an intersection at different distances and speeds to the camera – and then sections taken out of the video and layered). Swirling striations through time and space fragment identity so that people almost become code, the sound track the distorted beep beep beep of the buzzer at the crossing. I could have sat there for hours watching the performance as it crackles with energy and flow – with my oohs and aahs! The effect is magical, beautiful, hypnotic.

A great summer show – fresh, alive and well worth the journey if only to see that static in all its forms has never looked so good.




Daniel Crooks
‘Portrait #2 (Chris)’


“With these portraits I’m attempting to make large detailed images of people in their own surroundings, images of people very much in and of their time that are both intriguing and beautiful. As with a lot of my work the portraits also seek to render the experience of time in a more tangible material form, blurring the line between still and moving images and looking to new post-camera models of spatiotemporal representation.”

Daniel Crooks



Jean Appleton
‘Painting IX’
Whitworth/Bruce Collection



Elizabeth Gower
‘City Series’



Melinda Harper



Elizabeth Gower



“Cubism & Australian Art, one of the most ambitious and extensive exhibitions Heide has undertaken, shows the impact of the revolutionary and transformative movement of Cubism on Australian art from the early twentieth century to the present day. It uncovers a little-known yet compelling history through works by over eighty artists, including key examples of international Cubism drawn from Australian collections – by André Lhote, Albert Gleizes, Fernand Léger, Alexander Archipenko, Ben Nicholson and others – and nine decades of Australian modern and contemporary art that demonstrate a local evolution of cubist ideas.

The exhibition documents the earliest incorporation of cubist principles in Australian art practice in the 1920s, when artists such as Grace Crowley and Anne Dangar, who studied overseas under leading cubist artists, began to transform their art in accordance with late cubist thinking. It examines the influence of Cubism on artists associated with the George Bell School in Melbourne and the Crowley-Fizelle School in Sydney; and on those who participated in the cubist movement abroad including James Cant and John Power.

While its distortions and unconventional perspectives served individual styles such as the expressionism of Albert Tucker or the experimental landscapes of Sidney Nolan and Fred Williams, Cubism’s most enduring influence on postwar Australian art has been in abstraction. This exhibition traces its reverberations in 1950s abstract art by Roger Kemp, Robert Klippel and Ron Robertson-Swann and others, through to works by younger artists such as Stephen Bram, Gemma Smith and Justin Andrews.

Cubism’s formal and conceptual innovations and its investigations into the representation of time, space and motion have continuing relevance for artists today, who variously adapt, develop, quote and critique aspects of cubist practice. In this exhibition, Cubism’s shifting, multi-perspectival view of reality takes on new form in moving-image works by John Dunkley-Smith and Daniel Crooks, in paintings by Melinda Harper and sculptures by James Angus. The use of found objects and recycled materials by Madonna Staunton, Rosalie Gascoigne and Masato Takasaka extends ideas originating in cubist sculpture and collage. Other artists are critical of Cubism, bringing Indigenous and non-european perspectives to bear on its modernist history, particularly  its appropriation of so-called ‘primitive art’.”

Text from the Heide Museum of Modern Art website



Grace Crowley
‘Abstract painting’



Fred Williams
‘The Charcoal Burner’



Daniel Crooks
Static No.9 (a small section of something larger)’



James Angus



Rosalie Gascoigne
‘Milky Way’ (detail)



Heide Museum of Modern Art
7 Templestowe Road, Bulleen, Victoria 3105

Opening hours:
(Heide II & Heide III)
Tue–Fri 10.00am–5.00pm
Sat/Sun/Public Holidays 12.00noon–5.00pm
Closed Good Friday, Christmas Day, Boxing Day

Heide Museum of Art website

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Review: Rosalie Gascoigne at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne

9 December 2008 – 15 March 2009


“Rosalie Gascoigne’s art comes from, is inspired by, and in turn reflects the spare countryside of the southern tablelands and the Monaro district, a unique natural environment that lies relatively close to Canberra, the artist’s home of more than fifty years. Gascoigne’s transformation and re-investment in her work of battered and weathered materials sourced in the landscape surrounding Canberra also highlights the importance of collecting to her oeuvre, as different materials appear in works from across the decades …
Gascoigne’s knowledge and love of language and of Romantic poetry is evident in many of her works as she aspired to make art that achieved ‘allusive and illusive’ qualities that she experienced in this form. Through the artist’s skill in making poetry of the commonplace and her intrinsic response to both her chosen materials and the particularities of the Australian landscape, we are able to witness her unique ability to evocatively capture and convey the essence of nature and the transitory and captivating effects of light, air and space.” 

Wall text from the exhibition


Rosalie Gascoigne. 'Forty acre block' 1977


Rosalie Gascoigne
‘Forty acre block’
Painted wood and metal, collage


This exhibition is a relatively small, muscular yet poetic evocation of the life and work of one of my favourite Australian artists, Rosalie Gascoigne. Perhaps I have an affinity with this artist that goes beyond words: being English I have grown to love the Australian landscape but to see the way Gascoigne visions it is a truly moving experience. I have also admired artists that can successfully combine images and sculptural elements visually in their work, language and memory impinging on consciousness (hence my infatuation with the work of Joseph Cornell).

As we enter the exhibition early constructions – wooden boxes – are presented dating from 1975 – 1984. These have a rough hewn, rustic charm to them, made as they are of weathered thick planks of wood. Less refined than the boxes of Joseph Cornell (see below) they nevertheless draw on the Australian vernacular in their use of objects. As with the Cornell boxes there is a strong element of childhood fun and games in these constructions. ‘Dolly boxes’ (1976) for example contains innumerable plastic dollies of different sizes held inside wooden boxes; ‘Black bird box’ (1976) is like a shooting gallery at a fun fair; other boxes feature birds and sea shells trapped in plastic bottles, printed images of moths, test tubes, candlesticks, metal teapots and children’s bicycle seats. ‘Cloister’ (1977) below echoes the work of Joseph Cornell in it’s use of classical Renaissance imagery but with a rustic Australian charm. Unlike Cornell’s boxes which are enclosed dreamscapes that do not live in the world, Cascoigne’s boxes are made her own by being open and receptive to the landscape from which they merge, by being open to the world.


Rosalie Gascoigne. 'Cloister' 1977


Rosalie Gascoigne


Joseph Cornell. 'Medici Princess' 1948


Joseph Cornell
‘Medici Princess’


‘Forty acre block’ (1977, see image at top of entry) is a play on the great Aussie dream of owning your own 1/4 acre block. Inside the crate like tableaux we find cardboard parrots perched menacingly on rusted cylindrical metal tubes, two cardboard cut out cows with their white faces turned towards the viewer and at the rear of the box a sun-bleached picture of an orchard and three cows with human heads: a surreal vision of the Aussie landscape. Continuing the playfulness ‘Parrot morning’ (1976, below) extends the theme, the bicycle wheel almost having elements of Duchamp’s readymades but given an Australian twist with the perching parrots.


Rosalie Gascoigne. 'Parrot morning' 1976


Rosalie Gascoigne
‘Parrot morning’


Moving forward we find one of my favourite works, ‘Feathered chairs’ (1978), a most beautiful evocation of technology and nature. Two red rusted 1950’s office chairs sit low on the floor, their seats, back and sides replaced by four rows of dark Commorant feathers held in place by wooden slats clamped together. Simple yet eloquent these surreal chairs have a poetic rhythm of place and space, speaking of the abandonment of  technology and it’s re-habitation by a trapped but beautiful nature.


Rosalie Gascoigne. 'Feathered chairs' 1978       Rosalie Gascoigne. ‘Feathered chairs’ 1978


Other work becomes simpler, more focused around this time (and especially from 1984 onwards) as though the artist was finding her singular voice, was confident of the ‘less is more’ rhythms of the music she was creating. The essence appears of the land, artefacts and spaces. In ‘Swell’ (1984) for example two convex forms of corrugated iron (one horizontal, one vertical) play off of each other, forming an opposing flow of energies like the swelling of the sea. Nothing else is needed.

In ‘Step through’ (1980) fragments of floral linoleum floor are mounted on wooden blocks at differing heights allowing the viewer to visually wander across the space of the installation as their mind wanders to memories of the floors of Australian kitchens of the 1950’s  – either seen in childhood or in photographs – their is a recognition from all ages, in all Australians.


Rosalie Gascoigne. 'Step through' 1980


Rosalie Gascoigne
‘Step through’

This theme is further developed in the gridded ‘Inland sea’ (1986, below) patches of corrugated iron float above the ground like gently moving waves. Beautiful in it’s simplicity the colours, shapes and spaces evocatively reflect the undulating rise and fall of the landscape from which the iron has been rescued, the breath of air on the wind rippling the water.


Rosalie Gascoigne. 'Inland sea' 1986


Rosalie Gascoigne
‘Inland sea’
Weathered painted corrugated iron, wire


The use of regularized block and grids start to appear in wall mounted vistas: of loopholes, of lovers, the metropolis and the fall, of beach houses and far views, of grasslands and medusas. ‘Promised land’ (1986) offers a vision resplendent of a far away country – the promised land abstracted to Tarax, Dales, Cottee’s, Blue Bow home deliveries of a Sparkling Fruity Flavour! box ends, the 32 Fl. Oz weight weighing the vision of the Australian landscape in the balance.


Rosalie Gascoigne. 'Sweet lovers' 1990


Rosalie Gascoigne
‘Sweet lovers’


The most effective work uses the yellow colour of Schweppes boxes. In ‘Monaro’ (1989), one of my favourite works in the exhibition the painted blocks of yellow wood with unreadable fragmented words on them become, from a distance, like the wafting waving dried grasses of the Monaro landscape around Gascoigne’s home. Liquid music of air and place.

“I like the gold of the Schweppes boxes. I think that gold is one of the classical colours. I don’t care if it has got Schweppes written all over it, people seem to think I care. I don’t care! I just like the black and yellow. When I started I had lots of off-cuts, little pieces too good to throw away. So I started joining them up in a sort of way, walking around them, adding a few more. I soon had a 6 x 4 foot panel. In the end I realised that I needed to have four panels to say what I wanted to say. As it grew so did I. I kept thinking of the Monaro grasslands, and I thought of David Campbell saying ‘the Monaro rolls on to the sea.” 

Graeme Sullivan, Seeing Australia – Views of artists and art writers, Piper Press, Annandale, New South Wales, 1994, p. 19.


‘Summer swarm’ (1995) features small yellow blocks of wood an assemblage of yellow bees; ‘Grassfest’ (1999, below) like a stand of yellow grass under the Australian sun; ‘Metropolis’ (1999, below) collaged and patched road signs are worked together overlaying spaces and language. In Plenty’ (1986) yellow wood bricks mounted in panels are held in place with rusted metal nails. if you move close to the work the effect is immersive – every inflection of colour, grain of the wood, knot, nail hole, rub, scuff, daub of paint becomes evident. Every block is same but different, an almost transcendental experience.

In this work there is a refining of the essence of her vision of the world, a paring back of all extraneous elements but conversely an expansion in the energy of the work. A mature artist at the peak of their power.


Rosalie Gascoigne. 'Grassfest' 1999


Rosalie Gascoigne


Rosalie Gascoigne. 'Metropolis' 1999


Rosalie Gascoigne


In the ‘white’ work ‘Star chart’ (1995), ‘Milky way’ (1995) heaven and earth reflect each other, the grids and patterns linked in a cosmic dance. ‘But mostly air’ (1994 – 1995) the large installation that closes the exhibition confirms this dance, containing as it does white blocks of wood (invisible air) with a row of weathered wooden posts propped up against the gallery wall and animal spirits made of wooden blocks: faces with wings and ears, gasping for breath, white animals on a white background hovering between here and there, between heaven and earth.


Rosalie Gascoigne. 'White city' 1993


Rosalie Gascoigne
‘White city’


This is a wonderful exhibition. Gascoigne rightly commands a place in the pantheon of Australian stars. She has left us with a legacy of music that evokes the rhythms, the air, the spaces and colours of our country. As she herself said,

“Look at what we have: Space, skies. You can never have too much of nothing.”


Nothing more, nothing less.


M Bunyan



More information on Rosalie Gascoigne exhibition on the The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes the Art Blart blog which reviews exhibitions in Melbourne, Australia and posts exhibitions from around the world. He has a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne and is currently studying a Master of Art Curatorship at The University of Melbourne.

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