Posts Tagged ‘Rosalie Gascoigne The tea party

20
Sep
15

Exhibition: ‘Storm in a Teacup’ at the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery, Mornington

Exhibition dates: 24th July – 27th September 2015

 

Hotham Street Ladies (est. Australia 2007) 'Dark tea' 2015

 

Hotham Street Ladies (est. Australia 2007)
Dark tea (installation photo)
2015
Royal icing, butter cream icing, fondant, food dye, found objects
Dimensions variable
Courtesy of the artists

 

 

This is the best thematic group exhibition I have seen in Melbourne and surrounds this year.

Every piece in the exhibition is visually stimulating and intelligently constructed, all works combining to make an engaging exhibition. Nothing is superfluous, every work having something interesting to say, whether it is about the ceremony of tea drinking, colonisation, global warming, Stolen Generations or social mores. Congratulations must go to the curators and artists for their efforts.

Particular favourites where the Hotham Street Ladies Dark Tea (2015, below) made of royal icing, butter cream icing, fondant, food dye, and found objects; the many sculptural objects which form the backbone of the exhibition, especially the work of Sharon West and Penny Byrne; and the wonderful vintage photographs that are displayed in the foyer of the gallery.

Accompanying this exhibition is another excellent exhibition, Ways to draw: A selection from the permanent collection by Betty Churcher, on till 27th September as well. If you want a day out from Melbourne with lunch in Mornington, some seriously good art and a drive along the coast, you could do no better than visit the gallery in the next week. Highly recommended.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Hotham Street Ladies (est. Australia 2007) 'Dark tea' 2015 (detail)

Hotham Street Ladies (est. Australia 2007) 'Dark tea' 2015 (detail)

 

Hotham Street Ladies (est. Australia 2007)
Dark tea (details)
2015
Royal icing, butter cream icing, fondant, food dye, found objects
Dimensions variable
Courtesy of the artists

 

Charles Blackman (b. Australia 1928) 'Feet beneath the table' 1956

 

Charles Blackman (Australian, 1928-2018)
Feet beneath the table
1956
Tempera and oil on composition board
106.5 x 121.8cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Presented through the NGV Foundation by Barbara Blackman, Honorary Life Benefactor, 2005

 

 

Charles Blackman first encountered Lewis Caroll’s book, Alice in Wonderland, through a talking book for the blind which his wife, Barbara was listening to. Her developing blindness resulted in telescopic vision, spatial disorientation and a shrinking visual field. She was also pregnant with their first child and her distorted body image also had parallels with Alice’s experiences. By painting Alice at the Mad Hatter’s tea party Blackman could express his wife’s feeling of bewilderment and disorientation.

 

E. Phillips Fox (b. Australia 1865; d. Victoria 1915) 'The arbour' 1910

 

E. Phillips Fox (b. Australia 1865; d. Victoria 1915)
The arbour
1910
Oil on canvas
190.5 x 230.7cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Felton Bequest 1916

 

 

Melbourne born E. Phillips Fox, described as ‘one of the greatest of Australia’s Impressionist painters and the most gifted of her colourists’1 went to Paris in 1887 to study at the Ecole des Beaux Arts where he encountered the work of the French Impressionists. He remained in Paris for several years but made frequent trips back to Melbourne to visit his family. The Arbour was painted in Paris in Fox’s garden but is based upon observations of family life in his brother’s garden in Malvern. The depiction of an elegant family taking tea al fresco is a study of refined gentility. The Arbour was exhibited at both the Royal Academy and the Paris Salon exhibitions and was regarded by Fox as the finest thing he had done.2 At the time the painting was much admired for its ‘subtle lights ad shadow’3 and his exemplary ‘use of delicate colour and refined harmonies.’4

  1. Courier Mail, 12 May 1949
  2. Sydney Morning Herald, 13 October 1913
  3. Sydney Morning Herald, 13 October 1913
  4. Le Courrier Australien, Sydney, 15 April 1949

 

Clare Humphries (b. Australia 1973) 'Some things were out in the open' 2007

 

Clare Humphries (Australian, b. 1973)
Some things were out in the open
2007
Pigment print on Hahnemühle photo rag paper (ed. 3/5)
63.0 x 62.0cm
Courtesy of the artist

 

Adam Hill (Blak Douglas) (b. Australia 1970) 'Not everyone’s cup of tea' 2009

 

Adam Hill (Blak Douglas) (Australian, b. 1970)
Not everyone’s cup of tea
2009
Synthetic polymer paint on canvas
150.0 x 260.0cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra Purchased 2009

 

Kendal Murray (b. Australia 1958) 'Exceed speed, mislead, concede' 2011

 

Kendal Murray (Australian, b. 1958)
Exceed speed, mislead, concede
2011
Mixed media assemblage
18.0 x 24.0 x 14.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and Arthouse Gallery, Sydney

 

Penny Byrne (b. Australia 1965) 'Tea for two in Tuvalu' 2011

 

Penny Byrne (Australian, b. 1965)
Tea for two in Tuvalu
2011
Vintage porcelain figurine, vintage, Action man accessories, vintage coral, glass fish, epoxy resin, epoxy putty, retouching medium, powder pigments
15.0 x 19.0cm
Private Collection

 

Penny Byrne (b. Australia 1965) 'Tea for two in Tuvalu' 2011

 

Penny Byrne (Australian, b. 1965)
Tea for two in Tuvalu (installation photo)
2011
Vintage porcelain figurine, vintage, Action man accessories, vintage coral, glass fish, epoxy resin, epoxy putty, retouching medium, powder pigments
15.0 x 19.0cm
Private Collection

 

 

This piece was inspired by an underwater cabinet meeting held in 2009 by Maldives President Mohammed Nasheed in a campaign to raise awareness for activity on climate change. The thirty minute meeting was held six metres below sea level and was attended by eleven cabinet members calling upon all countries to cut their emissions to halt further temperature rises.

Polynesian island nation of Tuvalu, located in the Pacific Ocean midway between Hawaii and Australia, experienced a severe drought in 2011. A sate of emergency was declared and rationing of fresh-water took place which restricted households on some of the islands to two buckets of fresh water per day. Tuvalu is also especially susceptible to changes in sea level and it is estimated that a sea level rise of 20 to 40 centimetres in the next 100 years could make Tuvalu uninhabitable.

 

Kate Bergin (b. Australia 1968) 'The hunt for a room of one’s own' 2012

 

Kate Bergin (Australian, b. 1968)
The hunt for a room of one’s own
2012
Oil on canvas on board
75.0 x 101.0 cm
Private Collection

 

 

Kate Bergin draws upon Dutch and Flemish seventeenth century tradition of still life painting to comment on our attitudes to animals. Bergin stages the scene on a crumpled white tablecloth upon which a large fox, based on a taxidermy fox she bought on eBay, regally sits centre stage. Meticulously rendered native birds, including a honeyeater, finch and triller, are based on photographs of specimens from the Melbourne Museum Collection. They flit about unperturbed by the introduced predator. Teaspoons, representing the impulse for collecting, entangle the fox and bird. Together with a teapot and cup, precariously placed, they contribute to the overarching sense of impending chaos.

Both afternoon tea and the fox represent English upper class social mores and were introduced into the colonies following British settlement. The fox arrived in 1855, brought in for recreational hunting, and has been a major cause of native bird extinctions. Fox numbers are increasing in some areas further threatening the precarious balance between wild life and introduced species.

 

Sharon West (b. Australia 1963) 'Two Koori Tribesmen receive a gift of afternoon tea from local colonists' 2014

 

Sharon West (Australian, b. 1963)
Two Koori Tribesmen receive a gift of afternoon tea from local colonists (installation photo)
2014
Mixed media assemblage
15.0 x 46.0 x 30.0cm
Courtesy of the artist

 

Heather Shimmen (b. Australia 1957) 'Tip me up' 2005

 

Heather Shimmen (Australian, b. 1957)
Tip me up (installation photo)
2005
Linocut on paper and organza (ed. 7/30)
56.0 x 76.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and Australian Galleries, Melbourne and Sydney

 

Trent Jansen (b. Australia 1981) 'Briggs family tea service' 2011

 

Trent Jansen (Australian, b. 1981)
Briggs family tea service (installation photo)
2011
Slip cast porcelain, bull kelp, wallaby pelt, copper and brass
George (teapot) 22.5 x 20.5 x 13.0cm; Woretermoeteyenner (sugar bowl) 16.0 x 13.5 x 9.0cm; Dolly (milk jug) 12.5 x 12.5 x 8.5cm; John (teacup) 7.0 x 8.5 x 8.0cm; Eliza (teacup) 7.5 x 10.5 x 8.0cm; Mary (teacup) 10.0 x 9.0 x 6.5cm
Courtesy of Broached Commissions, Melbourne

 

 

The Briggs family tea service represents the marriage of George Briggs, a free settler, to Woretermoeteyenner of the Pairrebeenne people in Van Diemen’s Land and the four children they had together. Briggs arrived from Bedfordshire in 1791 and learned to speak the language of the local Pairrebeenne people, trading tea, flour and sugar fro kangaroo, wallaby and seal skins. It is understood that he became good friends with the leader of the Pairrebeenne people, Mannalargenna, and by 1810 he partnered his daughter Woretermoeteyenner. Their marriage meant she had to adapt to a way of life that merged her traditional cultural values with the ways of British settlers. The teapot and sugar bowl represent the parents while their first daughter, Doll Mountgarret Briggs is symbolised in the milk jug and the three cups each signify their other children John, Eliza and Mary.

The tea service is a hybrid design bringing together materials common to both cultures. To realise the set Jansen worked with Rod Bamford on the ceramic elements, Oliver Smith for the brass and copper and Vicki West, who uses the traditional methods of her Tasmanian Aboriginal ancestors, worked with the bull kelp components.

 

eX de Medici (b. Australia 1959) 'Blue (Bower-Bauer)' 1998–2000

 

eX de Medici (Australian, b. 1959)
Blue (Bower-Bauer) (installation photo)
1998-2000
Watercolour over black pencil on paper
114.0 x 152.8 cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra Purchased 2004

 

eX de Medici (b. Australia 1959) 'Blue (Bower-Bauer)' 1998-2000 (detail)

 

eX de Medici (Australian, b. 1959)
Blue (Bower-Bauer) (detail)
1998-2000
Watercolour over black pencil on paper
114.0 x 152.8cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra Purchased 2004

 

 

A turning point in eX de Medici’s career came in 1998 when she saw an exhibition of watercolours by Ferdinand Bauer comprising 2,000 rarely seen images of native flora and fauna made when Bauer was official artist on Matthew Flinder’s historic circumnavigation of Australia in 1801-03. Previously working with tattoo imagery, Medici found the intricate works so compelling she decided to change course and ‘retrograde’ herself and explore watercolour as a medium.1

Referencing Australia’s Bower bird that adorns its nest with anything blue, Medici entangles the history of vanitas painting with commentary about the desire to seek permanence and affirmation in the accumulation of things. The broken willow pattern platter, upturned jugs and cups, amassed with so many other decorative and functional objects, are juxtaposed with skulls, fruit and flowers – symbols of mortality. A reaction to what she considered John Howard’s regressive politics at the time, the work ‘is a kind of a backhanded discussion about colonising our minds with retroactive ideas’.2

  1. Ted Gott. ‘eX deMedici an epic journey on a Lilliputian scale’ Art and Australia Vol. 40, No. 1, Spring 2002, p. 105
  2. eX deMedici in Paul Flynn. Artist Profile #5, March 2008, pp. 28-35.

 

 

Storm in a Teacup reflects upon tea drinking in Australia. Introduced by the British colonials, the afternoon tea party was an attempt to ‘civilise’ the land. Tea drinking became so popular in the colonies that by 1888 the amount of tea consumed per capita exceeded the amount consumed in England. Soon after, billy tea was to become an enduring symbol of the pioneering spirit, immortalised by Henry Lawson’s stories published under the title While the billy boils.

Beginning with elegant paintings of the afternoon tea table from E. Phillips Fox and Arthur Streeton, the exhibition goes on to explore the darker side of tea drinking and the social and environmental impacts of the humble cup of tea. Michael Cook’s Object (table), 2015, provides an alternative history to the narrative of colonialism while Sharon West and Adam Hill both use humour to subvert colonial understandings of the afternoon tea party as an occasion of refined gentility.

The humble cuppa has been around for thousands of years, but this exhibition explores how a popular beverage can impact on us culturally, socially, environmentally and politically. There is more to debate than just the proper way to make a cup of tea. Storm in a teacup explores far-reaching issues brewing from tea, including the imposition of one culture upon another – especially on the colonial frontier; the production of ceramics and the environmental impacts of porcelain and its production; gender stereotypes and socialisation through tea parties. The exhibition also reflects upon tea drinking ceremonies in Asia within a western Orientalist paradigm and tea drinking as an occasion for familial cohesiveness and disconnect.”

Text from the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery

 

Mark James Daniel (1867-1949) 'Verandah, "Harefield" - afternoon tea' Feb 1900

 

Mark James Daniel (Australian, 1867-1949)
Verandah, “Harefield” – afternoon tea
Feb 1900
Glass negative
8.5 x 11.0cm (quarter plate)
Collection of the State Library of Victoria

 

Michael J Drew (1873-1943) 'Group taking tea in a garden' between 1890 and 1900

 

Michael J Drew (Australian, 1873-1943)
Group taking tea in a garden
between 1890 and 1900
Glass negative
12.2 x 16.5cm (half plate)
Collection of the State Library of Victoria

 

Rex Hazlewood (1886-1968) '[Men drinking billy tea]' 1911 - 1927

 

Rex Hazlewood (Australian, 1886-1968)
[Men drinking billy tea]
1911-1927
Silver gelatin print
Collection of the State Library of New South Wales

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Afternoon tea at "Vivaleigh"' 1917

 

Anonymous photographer
Afternoon tea at “Vivaleigh”
1917
Gelatin silver print
12 x 16cm
Collection of the State Library of Victoria

 

James Fox Barnard (1874-1945) 'Lawn, Arylie, Hobart' c. 1900

 

James Fox Barnard (Australian, 1874-1945)
Lawn, Arylie, Hobart
c. 1900
Glass negative
8.5 x 11.0cm (quarter plate)
Collection of the State Library of Victoria

 

James Fox Barnard (1874-1945) '[Tea on the verandah]' c. 1900

 

James Fox Barnard (Australian, 1874-1945)
[Tea on the verandah]
c. 1900
Glass negative
8.5 x 11.0cm (quarter plate)
Collection of the State Library of Victoria

 

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Storm in a Teacup' at the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Storm in a Teacup' at the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Storm in a Teacup' at the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Storm in a Teacup' at the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Storm in a Teacup' at the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery

 

Installation photograph of the exhibition Storm in a Teacup at the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery

 

 

Tea is the medium of many a complex and commonplace rituals. Adopted in a variety of ceremonies and customs across the globe, its unique and symbolic place in our lives is subtle and powerful. Whether a quick cuppa around the kitchen table or a lavish display of refined gentility; from billy tea to Asian tea-drinking ceremonies, tea has played an important role in international trade but more curiously in facilitating social cohesiveness.

Comprising approximately 50 works including painting, photography, sculpture and installation Storm in a Teacup features artists such as Chares Blackman, John Perceval, Emma Minnie Boyd, E. Phillips Fox and contemporary artists Stephen Bowers, Danie Mellor, Penny Byrne, Rosalie Gasgoigne, Matthew Sleeth, eX de Medici, Anne Zahalka, Polixeni Papapetrou and a mad tea party installation by Hotham Street Ladies.

Tea is said to have first been invented in China around 2700 BC, with the earliest records of tea consumption dating to 1000BC. Initially consumed as a medicinal drink, it became widely popular as a common beverage and traded across Asia and Europe during the 16th century. It was King Charles II’s wife Catherine of Portugal who is said to have brought the tea habit to Great Britain. Indeed, the afternoon tea party first became fashionable in the seventeenth century following Queen Catherine de Braganza’s fondness for serving the beverage at Whitehall in London. It wasn’t until the 18th century that it became widely consumed with tea smuggling bringing the tipple to the masses and later influenced the Boston Tea Party.

Tea drinking became a demonstration of social aspirations and grew in popularity giving rise to a subtle orchestration of manners, dress and serving paraphernalia which created new forms of commodity consumption. In the colonies of New South Wales and Victoria afternoon tea parties were a lavish display of settler understandings of refined gentility that were an attempt to signal allegiance to the values of the home country and ground the displaced community in their originating culture. In this respect the afternoon tea party expressed collective understandings of British identity and was a means of domesticating and civilising the alien terrain of the colonies.

Press release from the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery

 

Clare Humphries (b. Australia 1973) 'Family confection II' 2015

Clare Humphries (b. Australia 1973) 'Family confection II' 2015

 

Clare Humphries (Australian, b. 1973)
Family confection II (installation photos)
2015
Sugar cubes stained with coffee and tea
Dimensions variable
Courtesy of the artist

 

Giuseppe Romeo (b. Australia 1958) Subjective landscape, 'Of consequence rather than reason' 2015

DSC1644-WEB

 

Giuseppe Romeo (Australian, b. 1958)
Subjective landscape, ‘Of consequence rather than reason’ (installation photos)
2015
Found discarded objects, bitumen, paint
80.0 x 100.0 x 60.0cm
Courtesy of the artist

 

 

Guiseppe Rome asks the simple question: ‘What are you going to do with it all?’

Romeo recalls the tea sets his mother and aunts possessed and the ‘good set’ kept for special occasions that were rarely used. In this work a silver platter is the support for a silver cake stand upon which a teapot, creamer, sugar bowl and various serving implements jostle with items required to clean up the mess. The bat, ball and stumps are a reference to playing cricket which ‘became an excuse for a big afternoon tea party in England’. A ribbon of wire holds it all together ‘like a dream from Alice in Wonderland when nothing is as it seems’, while a tinkling melody from a music box is a lullaby that sends us in to a contented sleep.

Romeo coats the sculpture in bitumen then paints it entirely in white. The effect is reminiscent of excavated items from an ancient ruin, as if w are peering upon the remains from a modern day Pompeii – artefacts that have been covered in lava and buried. This work alludes to the ways in which we deceive ourselves and ‘attempt to keep it all together through consumption but ultimately we can’t’.

 

Samantha Everton (b. Australia 1971) 'Camellia' 2009

 

Samantha Everton (Australian, b. 1971)
Camellia
2009
From the series Vintage dolls 2009
Pigment print on rag paper (ed. AP2)
106.0 x 114.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and Anthea Polson Art, Queensland

 

Robyn Phelan (b. Australia 1965) 'Porcelain wall – ode to an obsession' 2010-15

 

Robyn Phelan (Australian, b. 1965)
Porcelain wall – ode to an obsession (installation photo)
2010-15
Porcelain, paper, clay, cobalt oxide, timber, pigment, Jingdezhen tissue transfer
240.0 x 122.0 x 42.0cm
Courtesy of the artist

 

Robyn Phelan (b. Australia 1965) 'Porcelain wall – ode to an obsession' 2010-15 (detail)

 

Robyn Phelan (Australian, b. 1965)
Porcelain wall – ode to an obsession (detail)
2010-15
Porcelain, paper, clay, cobalt oxide, timber, pigment, Jingdezhen tissue transfer
240.0 x 122.0 x 42.0cm
Courtesy of the artist

 

 

Robyn Phelan undertook a residency at the Pottery Workshop and Experimental Sculptural Factory of Jingdezhen, Jiangxi Province in China in 2008. Jingdezhen is known as the porcelain capital because it has been the centre of China’s ceramic production, beginning in the fourteenth century Yuan Dynasty, where fine porcelain was first exported all over the world.

Deposits of kaolinite, a clay found at Mt Kaolin nearby which can sustain very high firing temperatures produced a superior white porcelain of increased strength and translucency. Items made from kaolinite were fired with cobalt landscape designs and were highly sought after by European collectors. Over the centuries, because of excessive mining, the mountain’s deposits have become depleted. Phelan’s work is a lament to the desecration of the mountain and a reminder of the potential destructiveness of consumer desire.

 

Penny Byrne (b. Australia 1965) '‘Let’s forget about global warming’ said Alice ‘and have a cup of tea instead!’' 2010

 

Penny Byrne (Australian, b. 1965)
‘Let’s forget about global warming’ said Alice ‘and have a cup of tea instead!’ (installation photo)
2010
Vintage porcelain figurine, found toys, epoxy resin, epoxy putty, retouching medium, powder pigments
80.0 x 33.0cm
Williams Sinclair Collection

 

Penny Byrne (b. Australia 1965) '‘Let’s forget about global warming’ said Alice ‘and have a cup of tea instead!’' 2010 (detail)

 

Penny Byrne (Australian, b. 1965)
‘Let’s forget about global warming’ said Alice ‘and have a cup of tea instead!’ (detail)
2010
Vintage porcelain figurine, found toys, epoxy resin, epoxy putty, retouching medium, powder pigments
80.0 x 33.0cm
Williams Sinclair Collection

 

 

Penny Byrne’s reworked porcelain conversation piece was motivated by Republican Vice-Presidential nominee Sarah Palin’s cry to ‘drill, baby, drill’ during her campaign in 2008. A call for increase off-shore drilling of petroleum, including sites such as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Palin claimed ‘that’s what we hear all across the country in our rallies because people are so hungry for those domestic sources of energy to be tapped into’.1

In Byrne’s piece the patriotic figures gorge themselves, blithely overindulging without care to the wastage. The new Disney production of Alice in Wonderland directed by Tim Burton had just been released and this led Byrne to reflect upon the Mad Hatter’s tea party in which tea was drunk all day because time stood still and was stuck at tea-time.

  1. Transcript: The Vice-Presidential Debate, 2 October 2008. Reprinted in the New York Times, 23 May 2012.

 

Sharon West (b. Australia 1963) 'Joseph Banks’ tea party for a Botany Bay tribesman is ruined by flies and spiders' 2014

 

Sharon West (Australian, b. 1963)
Joseph Banks’ tea party for a Botany Bay tribesman is ruined by flies and spiders
2014
Digital print on paper (ed. 2/5)
66.0 x 57.0cm (sheet)
Courtesy of the artist

 

 

Sharon West’s recreation of an afternoon tea party is set in the early days of first contact. Joseph Banks was the botanist who sailed with Captain Cook on the Endeavour on the first voyage of discovery which mapped the east coast of Australia between 1768 and 1771. While ashore he made an extensive collection of native flora and fauna which was sent back to natural history museums in England. Banks was also instrumental in the British government’s decision to colonise the New South Wales settlement.

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (b. New Zealand 1917; arr. Australia 1943; d. Canberra 1999) 'The tea party' 1980

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (b. New Zealand 1917; arr. Australia 1943; d. Canberra 1999)
The tea party (installation photo)
1980
Painted wood, celluloid, plastic, enamelled metal, feathers
83.0 x 35.0 x 20.0cm
Private collection

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (b. New Zealand 1917; arr. Australia 1943; d. Canberra 1999) 'The tea party' 1980 (detail)

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (b. New Zealand 1917; arr. Australia 1943; d. Canberra 1999)
The tea party (detail)
1980
Painted wood, celluloid, plastic, enamelled metal, feathers
83.0 x 35.0 x 20.0cm
Private collection

 

 

Rosalie Gascoigne found the kewpie dolls amongst a large number of discarded things from an abandoned sideshow at the Bungendore dump in the summer of 1976. ‘I thought “Oh, those dollies, they’re having a … very joyful … picnic. They’re … in the paddock, they’ve got all these old things … they’ve sat down on the teapots and waved their wings around.”

For Gascoigne beauty existed in the most humble of objects and the wear and tear from use only added to the appeal. The enamel teapots were also found at various dumps and were a particular focus of her collecting.

‘I had a thing about enamelware because I see it as being elegant. People see the holes in it. I was collecting brown and white at the same time. To me it had a sort of elegance that a Dalmatian dog has, spotty, very elegant’.1

  1. Rosalie Gascoigne, excerpts from her correspondence, email communication with Martin Gascoigne, 13 March 2015

 

Julie Dowling (b. Australia 1969) Badimaya people, Western Australia 'White with one' 2003

 

Julie Dowling (Australian, b. 1969)
Badimaya people, Western Australia
White with one
2003
Synthetic polymer paint and red ochre on canvas
121.0 x 100.0 cm
Collection of Jane Kleimeyer and Anthony Stuart

 

 

Julie Dowling’s painting is a poignant reminder of the Stolen Generations and the plight of many young girls, forcibly removed from their families, who were brought up in government institutions and trained to be domestic servant to white families. Girls were targeted because women were considered the ‘uplifters’ or ‘civilisers’ of their communities and as future mothers their education into the values of white society was deemed essential to enable successful assimilation. Girls in service were supposed to receive a wage but often this was retained by their employer and not passed on. Dowling points out it is also a history of Stolen wages.

 

Michael Cook (b. Australia 1968) Bidjara people, south-west Queensland 'Object (table)' 2015

 

Michael Cook (Australian, b. 1968)
Bidjara people, south-west Queensland
Object (table)
2015
Inkjet print on Hahnemühle cotton rag (ed. 2/4 + 2AP)
140.0 x 99.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and THIS IS NO FANTASY + dianne tanzer gallery, Melbourne

 

 

Michael Cook’s photographic tableau ‘turns the table’ on racism. By depicting the body of a white woman as a functional object in service to others, Cook considers the dehumanisation and objectification of one race of people by another in the history of slavery.

The double portrait on the back wall is by Johann Zoffany from 1778, and features Dido Elizabeth Belle (1761-1804) who was born into slavery in the West Indies. The daughter of an African mother, her father was an English naval officer who left her to the care of his uncle, Lord William Murray, where she was raised as an equal with Murray’s niece. Murray was instrumental in outlawing slavery in the United Kingdom in 1772. In the painting Zoffany depicts the two women standing together, the niece affectionately reaching out to Belle. Hence Cook’s afternoon tea is also a reminder that prejudice and racial inequality can be surmounted.

 

Yenny Huber (b. Austria 1980; arr. Australia 2000) 'Room No. 14' 2006

 

Yenny Huber (b. Austria 1980; arr. Australia 2000)
Room No. 14
2006
Digital print on aluminium panel (ed. 1/6)
27.2 x 27.2cm
Warrnambool Art Gallery, Victoria

 

 

Underpinned by the belief that any one person is comprised of diverse, fragmentary and often illusory selves, Yenny Huber explores the various ego states that reside within. This photograph is a self portrait taken in a hotel room, but it is also an impersonation of an identity available to women. Tea-drinking was once described as ‘an infallible sign of an old maid’1 and in this work Huber offers us an image of a good Catholic girl, knees together, elbows in, sitting demurely on the couch sipping tea. It is an image of femininity constrained by the dictates of religion and outdated socially sanctioned ideals of respectable female behaviour.

  1. The Horsham Times, Victoria, 26 April 1898

 

Anne Zahalka (b. Australia 1957) 'Saturday 5.18 pm 1995' 1995 (printed 1997)

 

Anne Zahalka (Australian, b. 1957)
Saturday 5.18 pm 1995
1995 (printed 1997)
Type C photograph (ed AP)
125.0 x 162.0cm
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney Gift of the artist, 2011
Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program

 

 

Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery
Civic Reserve, Dunns Road, Mornington

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday 10am – 5pm

Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery website

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04
Feb
09

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

Exhibition dates: 9th December 2008 – 15th March 2009

 

Rosalie Gascoigne. 'Forty acre block' 1977

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (1917-1999)
Forty acre block
1977
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, below) 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.

Forty acre block (1977, above) 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.

Moving forward we find one of my favourite works, Feathered chairs (1978, below), 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. 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, below) 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. 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.

The use of regularised 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.

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.

In the ‘white’ work Star chart (1995) and 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.

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.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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Many thankx to the NGV for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (1917-1999) 'Study: dolly boxes A&B' 1976

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (1917-1999)
Study: dolly boxes A&B
1976
Wood, plastic
© Rosalie Gascoigne Estate

 

Rosalie Gascoigne. 'Cloister' 1977

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (1917-1999)
Cloister
1977
Painted wood and collage
61.1 × 34.8 × 15.5 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of James Mollison, AO, 1999
© Rosalie Gascoigne Estate

 

Joseph Cornell. 'Medici Princess' 1948

 

Joseph Cornell
Medici Princess
1948
Mixed media

 

 

Rosalie Gascoigne is one of Australia’s most acclaimed and respected visual artists. Her distinctive style is characterised by her recognition of beauty in the most humble of objects such as soft drink crates, linoleum, retro-reflective road signs, dried grasses and feathers. Collecting and arranging these items, often rescued from rubbish dumps, and scarred and faded by the ravages of weather, is an integral part of her practice. Like a magician she transforms these discarded materials into sculptures, wall pieces and assemblages, which create evocative visual poetry, capturing the essence of things or an experience rather than conveying a literal representation.

Gascoigne like Picasso realised later in life that one is not made an artist, one is born an artist. Some of her fondest memories as a child are of collecting shells on summer holidays at the beach, and the yellow china her grandmother owned. At the age of ten she won first prize for her entry in a table decoration competition that included yellow flowers, an unusual Indian brass vase and Indian brass bowls.

Her journey to becoming a professional artist was highly unconventional. She received no formal art education, openly declared that she could neither draw nor paint and was not officially recognised as part of the Australian art scene until she held her first critically acclaimed exhibition at the age of fifty-seven.

Gascoigne was born in New Zealand in 1917. She studied for a Bachelor of Arts degree, specialising in English and Latin, at the University of Auckland. During this time she got to know her future husband Ben Gascoigne. In 1943, following a short teaching career, she moved to Australia to marry Ben. They lived as part of a small isolated scientific community around Mt Stromlo Observatory outside Canberra, where Ben had taken up a position. The transition from the gentle, green landscape of her home to the hard, unforgiving, dry slopes of Mount Stromlo, bounded by seemingly endless space, was initially a tough and lonely experience. She didn’t fit into the mould of the happy domesticated wife expected of this era. The lack of stimulating conversation with the other wives on the establishment made her feel particularly alone. She befriended nature instead and as she brought up three children in these alien conditions she remembers:

I’d push the children’s prams around that lonely mountain until I knew the shape of every stone and tree, the texture of every patch of dirt and grass, the colour of every leaf and weed. I’d gaze down at the valley below, a vastness of dry blond grass and grubby sheep and the sky used to hang, from there to there. ~ Janet Hawley ‘A late developer’, Sydney Morning Herald, Good Weekend, 15 November 1997, p. 40.

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She acclimatised to this new terrain and began to gather unusual natural forms. She displayed these found objects in her home, much to the bemusement of the conventional local community. Gascoigne began creating distinctive flower arrangements in the 1950s and won prizes for them in horticultural shows. When the family moved from Mount Stromlo to the Canberra suburb of Deakin in 1960, she studied ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arranging, under Norman Sparnon, a master of the Sogetsu School. Gascoigne appreciated the strict discipline of this form of arranging, which imposed a sense of order on her collected found objects. The emphasis on line, form and sculptural properties was to become a key part of her later practice.

When Gascoigne’s three children had grown up, she had increasing freedom to pursue her growing interest in art. She visited art galleries more often, looked at art books and met people in the art world who were to shape her future career, including James Mollison, who became the inaugural director of the Australian National Gallery (now National Gallery of Australia). Her discussions with those in the arts community taught her much about looking and thinking about art, and confirmed her sense of identity as an artist.

In the mid-1960s she began making assemblages of rusted iron, which were followed, from 1973, by assemblages in boxes. These miniature surreal and often humorous worlds, such as The colonel’s lady, 1976, employed rich patterning and repetition through the arrangement of man-made objects, including advertising symbols used on the packaging of products.

The eclectic mix of objects and surfaces in these early works gave way to her later wall-based works that were elegant compositions limited to one or two materials, and subtly evoke culture, nature, language and the landscape, particularly the country around Canberra, which she came to love. Scrub country, 1982, and Monaro, 1989, epitomise these works. They are made from soft-drink crates – weathered by the sun, rain, wind and time – dismantled, sawn into strips and reassembled.

Gascoigne reached meteoric heights in her career which spanned over two decades until her death in 1999 at the age of eighty-two. She was given a major survey show at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) in 1978, only four years after her first solo exhibition at Macquarie Galleries, Canberra. In 1982 she represented Australia with artist Peter Booth at the Venice Biennale. Her work is included in major public, corporate and private collections.

Text from the NGV Rosalie Gascoigne Education Kit

 

Rosalie Gascoigne. 'Parrot morning' 1976

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (1917-1999)
Parrot morning
1976
Painted metal, wood and paper
71.9 × 66.6 × 59.7 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Michell Endowment, 1976 Transferred to the Permanent Collection, 1996
© Rosalie Gascoigne Estate

 

Rosalie Gascoigne. 'Feathered chairs' 1978

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (1917-1999)
Feathered chairs
1978

 

 

Despite their unusual appearance, this set of feathered chairs is not a departure from Rosalie Gascoigne’s usual practice. This work does not record, despite the reference to furniture in the title, a move to decorative arts – this feathered pair were never intended to function as seating – they are sculptures, conceived to fascinate the eye rather than conform to anyone’s behind.

Gascoigne collected the feathers for the chairs on the shores of Lake George, located about 35 kilometres from Canberra, on the road to Sydney.

‘And then I came to this place’, she recalled in 1982, ‘where there were all these… black birds, you know, cormorants. And a shattering of black beautiful glossy [feathers] as if the birds had just undressed. … They’re beautiful feathers. They’re like the underside of mushrooms. You know… the quill.’

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The feathers were assembled in racks similar to those used in Gasgoigne’s Feathered Fence 1979 (NGA Collection, Canberra) which used swan feathers also found at Lake George. Racks of feathers were displayed on two reddish metal chairs that she had found at the dump. Gascoigne aimed to create poetic, rather than literal interpretations of her work, aiming for a succinct ‘plastic metaphor’, where a melding of disparate objects and textures might produce unexpected allusions and tangential meanings. Nonetheless, the claw foot of the chair suggests the foot of a bird and the splayed feathers conjure up the pose of a cormorant with its spread wings drying off in the sun. Or did the sun-basking bird with its arm rest wings suggest a throne? Gascoigne was not an artist to routinely create figurative works and it’s just as likely that in this work she sought a tension between the earthbound weight of the metal and the airy, windborne feathers. She had a longtime fascination with birds and the Feathered Chairs suggest an evocation of flight and freedom; a joyous ability to see and read the story of our ancient land. Elated by exploration and discovery, Gascoigne willingly shares her delight with the armchair traveller.

Extract from Michael Desmond. “Rosalie Gascoigne,” on the Menzies website [Online] Cited 19/12/2018

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (1917-1999) 'The tea party' 1980

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (1917-1999)
The tea party
1980
Painted wood, celluloid, plastic, enamelled metal, feathers
82.0 x 35.0 x 190.0 cm
Gascoigne Family Collection, Canberra
© Rosalie Gascoigne Estate

 

 

After first exhibiting her work at the age of 57, Rosalie Gascoigne rapidly established a reputation as one of Australia’s foremost contemporary artists. Following her first exhibition in 1974, Gascoigne subsequently developed an impressive exhibition history that included her being honoured, in 1982, as the first female artist to represent Australia at the Venice Biennale.

This major exhibition of Rosalie Gascoigne’s work ranges from the boxlike assemblages of her early career through to large scale installations and her creation of master works constructed from Schweppes soft drink crates and retro-reflective road signs. The exhibition investigates the artist’s ability to draw creative inspiration from the discarded; her intrinsic response to her chosen materials, and her unique ability to evocatively convey the essence of nature and the transitory and captivating effects of light, air and space.

Rosalie Gascoigne is the first major retrospective exhibition of Gascoigne’s work to be seen in Melbourne and is accompanied by a comprehensive exhibition catalogue.

Text from the NGV website

 

Rosalie Gascoigne. 'Step through' 1980

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (1917-1999)
Step through
1980
Linoleum and wood
28.0 h x 93.0 w x 370.0 d cm
© Rosalie Gascoigne Estate

 

 

Extract from A Formal Focus – Art Elements and Principles

In Inland sea, 1986 (below), sixteen large sheets of corrugated tin hover above the floor in a loose grid arrangement. The grid format unifies the separate parts of the composition, and also enhances the expressive power of different visual elements through repetition. The shapes and lines repeated across the buckling sheets of tin create a powerful sense of the gentle movement of wind or water.

The strong visual rhythms and movement evident in Gascoigne’s compositions are often achieved through the repetition of different visual elements. Step through, 1980 (above), is made from fifteen separate parts, each made from a torn piece of brightly coloured, floral patterned linoleum mounted on a block of wood. The blocks sit at different angles creating different levels within the installation. The spaces between the different parts create a meandering path for the viewer to explore, highlighting the importance of movement through and across space in Gascoigne’s work.

“I was thinking about the unkempt empty blocks in built up city areas … usually covered in rank grasses and flowering weeds … rubble, old tins and bottles. One steps through them gingerly and, with possible snakes in mind, lifts one’s knees high.” ~ Vici MacDonald, Rosalie Gascoigne, Regaro Pty Ltd, Sydney, 1998, p. 48


Colour assumed a vital presence in Gascoigne’s work. In an overview of her work, as in the exhibition Rosalie Gascoigne (2008), the importance of particular colours is revealed in swathes and groupings of yellow, red, orange and white artworks, culminating in the grey, brown and ochre hues of the Earth series (1999), which were the artist’s last works. Individually, each work reveals something of the beauty of colour and its ability to suggest meaning; from sun-baked, muted yellows that remind us of vistas of dry grass, to soft pale greys and whites that murmur quietly of the open air and cloud.

Gascoigne was often drawn to particular materials because of the beauty of their colour and texture, and the associations or moods these suggested. The visual qualities and associations found in the textures of humble and/or discarded materials are clearly revealed in Gascoigne’s work – from the flaky layers of faded paint on weathered tin or wood that speak of both rural life and work, and the forces and seasons of nature, to the staccato flash of retro-reflective road signs that remind us of driving through the landscape.

Text from the NGV Rosalie Gascoigne Education Kit

 

Rosalie Gascoigne. 'Inland sea' 1986

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (1917-1999)
Inland sea
1986
Weathered painted corrugated iron, wire
39.1 × 325.0 × 355.5 cm (variable)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1993
© Rosalie Gascoigne Estate

 

 

Extract from Poetry and Words

Rosalie Gascoigne’s work is often referred to as visual poetry. Her training in literature and fascination for words infuse her work. She had a particular love of poetry. This included the modern Australian poets such as Peter Porter and David Campbell, who also evoked in his writing the landscape around Canberra. Just as a poet distils the essence of their subject with carefully chosen evocative words and phrases, so Gascoigne captures the spirit of a place, or the core of an idea with sensitive arrangements of visual elements. Instead of literary allusions, Gascoigne creates visual metaphors with materials such as corrugated iron in Inland sea, 1986, which evokes movement of air, while slivers of discarded, weathered timber in Monaro, 1989 suggest dried grassland. Repetition, ordering, fragmenting and editing out unnecessary materials are also part of her practice which echo the creation of poetry.

Gascoigne admired the English Romantic poets of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries and often quoted William Wordsworth’s idea that: ‘Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquillity.’ She believed passionately that her work was intricately woven with glimpses of her past feelings and experiences. …

Other works studded with random words are more elusive and hark back to the poetry of Andre Bréton and the Surrealists, who scattered and re-arranged words cut from a newspaper.

Gascoigne frequently described her works as ‘stammering concrete poetry’ (Gregory O’Brien, 2004, p. 42), a reference to a style of poetry originating in the 1950s where the visual arrangement of words or letters suggests something about the subject of the poem. In All that jazz, 1989, for example, the artist has conjured up the pulsating chopped up rhythms of jazz with wooden strips of dazzling colour highlighted by splinters of black lettering. In contrast, the broken and fractured nature of the yellow and black road signs in Skylight, 1993, interspersed with ill-fitting patches of well-worn linoleum, sets up a tension that hints at both the tragedy of drought and the beauty of the Australian light in summer.

The evocative titles of Gascoigne’s works, which are selected after their completion and only after much contemplation, are chosen to be allusive and poetic rather than descriptive. They reveal an entry point but allow the viewer to experience their own intuitive response to the work.

Text from the NGV Rosalie Gascoigne Education Kit

 

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 (1917-1999) 'Scrub country' 1982

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (1917-1999)
Scrub country
1982
Weathered painted wood (1-9)
144.0 x 376.0 cm (overall)
Private collection, Brisbane
© Rosalie Gascoigne Estate

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (1917-1999) 'Scrub country' 1982 (detail)

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (1917-1999)
Scrub country (detail)
1982
Weathered painted wood (1-9)
144.0 x 376.0 cm (overall)
Private collection, Brisbane
© Rosalie Gascoigne Estate

 

 

Extract from Landscape – Place, Memory, Experience

The art of Rosalie Gascoigne has a unique place in the rich landscape tradition in Australian art. While painting has been the dominant artform in this tradition, Gascoigne worked in assemblage and installation, using natural and man-made materials collected from the landscape. Unlike many earlier artists, she was not interested in describing the visual reality, picturesque beauty or stories of the Australian landscape. Gascoigne’s artworks capture the essence of the landscape’s topography, space, air, vegetation; and the daily and seasonal natural rhythms of nature, in compositions that are often startling in their refined simplicity. …

In Scrub country, 1982 wooden slats from old soft-drink crates are arranged methodically in rows and columns, but their faded colours, worn surfaces and uneven edges reveal the impact of prolonged use and many hot summers. The medley of faded yellows and greens, and nearly naked wooden surfaces in Scrub country is punctuated by flashes of turquoise blues, evoking the patterns of dappled light and colour often found in the Australian bush.

“I called it Scrub country because to me it had the randomness and relaxed air and the quality of colour which I think is much more typical of the Australia I know than any of those ochres and oranges so often used. I have let air through because we see a lot of filtered light, random pattern and carelessness in the Australian landscape.” ~ Public Programs Department, Art Gallery of New South Wales Education Kit, Material as Landscape – Rosalie Gascoigne Education Kit, 1997

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While a palette of ‘blue and gold’ colours was strongly associated with the paintings of the famous Australian landscape painter Arthur Streeton (1867-1943), Scrub country clearly breaks with the landscape conventions associated with Streeton and his generation. The repetition and ordering of elements in distinct rows and columns creates a strong formal structure and a flattened space that avoids literal landscape references. Sensations and moods more associated with memory and experience of the landscape are emphasised. Gascoigne’s focus on the formal qualities suggests some affinity between her landscape inspired artworks and those of her contemporary, Australian artist Fred Williams (1927-1982), who also broke with convention in representing the landscape.

Text from the NGV Rosalie Gascoigne Education Kit

 

Rosalie Gascoigne. 'Sweet lovers' 1990

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (1917-1999)
Sweet lovers
1990
Reflective synthetic polymer film on plywood
105.0 x 79.5 cm
Collection of Christopher Hodges and Helen Eager, Sydney
Photo: Christian Markel
© Rosalie Gascoigne Estate

 

Rosalie Gascoigne. 'Grassfest' 1999

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (1917-1999)
Grassfest
1999
Weathered painted wood on composition board
106.5 x 101.0 cm
Queensland University of Technology Art Collection, Brisbane
Purchased, 1999
© Rosalie Gascoigne Estate

 

 

Gascoigne worked intuitively with no preliminary drawings or plans. Her ideas, and the processes used to make each artwork, were inspired and determined by the look and feel of particular materials, and the visual and emotional associations they suggested. Depending on the materials used, many hundreds of hours would be spent on the labour intensive work of cutting, tearing, bending, scrubbing, sorting, grouping, arranging until the ‘right’ idea and visual effect crystallised. The process of transforming found materials into artworks was one of making the mood, experience and sensation of landscape visible.

 

Rosalie Gascoigne. 'Metropolis' 1999

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (1917-1999)
Metropolis
1999
© Rosalie Gascoigne Estate

 

 

Quotations

“Your art has to come out of your daily life. I really believe that if anyone is born an artist they’ve only got to look at what’s round their feet and what’s available to them. They don’t have to be clever, they don’t have to go to art school, they don’t have to get the exotic stuff – make it with what’s there. People think art’s like you strike it lucky and you’re famous tomorrow, but it isn’t like that, it’s a search for honesty on your own terms. The journey to self-recognition took me decades.”

Vici MacDonald, Rosalie Gascoigne, Regaro Pty Ltd, Sydney, 1998, p. 9

 

“I look for the eternal truths in nature, the rhythms, cycles, seasons, shapes, regeneration, restorative powers, spirit. I’m showing what I believe to be interesting and beautiful.”

Janet Hawley ‘A late developer’, Sydney Morning Herald, Good Weekend, 15 November 1997, p. 44

 

“I was hopeless at painting and drawing, and had no skills at making craftwork. At school, I envied people who could draw a perfect basket of apples. I regarded myself as totally non-artistic. My big love was, and remains, poetry; I always visualised every line of a poem as I read it.”

Janet Hawley ‘A late developer’, Sydney Morning Herald, Good Weekend, 15 November 1997, p. 42

 

“My concerns are as much with my materials as with the work I make of it. They both have to satisfy me … I look for things that have been somewhere, done something. Second-hand materials aren’t deliberate; they have had sun and wind on them …”

Public Programs Department, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Material as Landscape, Rosalie Gascoigne Education Kit, 1997

 

“Once I’d started on my art journey I was in it with a vengeance. I needed it so badly. At last life was full of possibilities.”

Janet Hawley ‘A late developer’, Sydney Morning Herald, Good Weekend, 15 November 1997, p. 41

 

“I have a real need to express elation at how interesting and beautiful things are and to see them arranged … I work with things I rather like and move them about until they recall the feeling of an actual moment in the landscape; then I’ve won.”

Rosalie Gascoigne interviewed by James Mollison and Steven Heath in Rosalie Gascoigne: Material as landscape (exh. cat), Deborah Edwards (ed.), Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 1997, p. 7

 

“My pieces can be looked at in many different ways. I try to provide a starting point from which people can let their imagination wander – what they will discover will be a product of their own experience as much as mine. My aim is to be allusive and elusive.”

Bob Weis, Judi Stack & Robert Lindsay, Survey 2 – Rosalie Gascoigne, video, colour, sound, 16 mins 50 secs, produced by the Media Resource Centre for the NGV, 1978

 

Rosalie Gascoigne. 'White city' 1993

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (1917-1999)
White city
1993
© Rosalie Gascoigne Estate

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (1917-1999) 'Star Chart' 1995

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (1917-1999)
Star Chart
1995
Synthetic polymer paint on sawn wood on composition board
© Rosalie Gascoigne Estate

 

 

The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia
Federation Square
Corner of Russell and 
Flinders Streets, Melbourne

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National Gallery of Victoria website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

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Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Orphans and small groups’ 1994-96 Part 2

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