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Rosalie Gascoigne

Piece to Walk Around 1981

on display

Museum of Contemporary Art, donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program by the Gascoigne Family, 2011

saffron thistle sticks

H 80 W 80cm
H 470 W 390cm

About the Artwork

The assemblages of Rosalie Gascoigne are inspired by the landscape of the Monaro, in the southwest of New South Wales, where she lived from 1943. This environment provided both the experiences which shaped her work as well as the materials, found on her journeys through it. Gascoigne’s Piece to Walk Around (1981) refers directly to the experience of moving through the Australian landscape. It was titled to draw attention to the changing visual effects as one circles the work and the shifting play of light on the natural material. Created only seven years after her first solo show in 1974, this work has a remarkable maturity and balance, achieved through a lifetime of looking at the landscape.

Piece to Walk Around is comprised of bundles of saffron thistle stalks arranged into 20 squares. These squares lay directly on the floor in a patchwork; one bundle running one way, then one another. The criss-cross formation recalls the undulating countryside, the ordering of agriculture and industry, and the mottled effects of light and shadow upon it. The work conveys a sense of the infinite expansiveness and liberation experienced in the country, as manifested through the grid, here understood as an open-ended structure to which additional bundles of thistles could be theoretically added or subtracted(1). An engagement with Minimalism’s sense of order and pre-occupation with the grid was a key element in Gascoigne’s work from the early 1980s, however her works reveal a sophisticated aesthetic – an almost Japanese mixture of formal composition and nature. It was this sense of ‘order with randomness’ which Gascoigne recognised as an essential feature of the Monaro-Canberra region, and which resonates in the ‘careful-careless’ effect of this assemblage(2).

In Piece to Walk Around the literal depiction of the environment is stripped back to its very essence and the work becomes a microcosm of the landscape itself. It is one of Gascoigne’s few mature pieces using not things from but rather things of the landscape and can be seen as a pivotal work in her transition from the previous dense assemblages, to the spare, flat, abstract wall pieces and installations that followed.

(1) Rachel Kent, Reinventing the Grid, Robert Lindsay Gallery, Melbourne 1994
(2) Deborah Edwards, Material as landscape, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 1997, p14

Artist Statement

This is a piece for walking around and contemplating. It is about being in the country with its shifting light and shades of grey, its casualness and its prodigality.

The viewer’s response to the landscape may differ from mine, but I hope this picture will convey some sense of the countryside that produced it: and that an extra turn or two around the work will induce in the viewer the liberating feeling of being in the open country.

References

•1981 La Trobe University Record Vol 15 No 1, Feb/Mar 1981, p. 12.
•1981 The First Australian Sculpture Triennial, First Australian Sculpture Triennial Committee, Melbourne, 1981, page 4 and p. 35 (detail)
•1981 Janine Burke, Did You see the Koala Bears with Machine Guns? in Art Network Australia No. 3&4 Winter/Spring 1981, page 26
•1984 Graeme Sturgeon, Australian Sculpture Now: The Second Australian Sculpture Triennial, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, p. 94 (detail)
•1994 Reinventing the Grid, Robert Lindsay Gallery, Melbourne (detail)
•1997 Rosalie Gascoigne: Material as Landscape, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 1997 plate 4, pages 24 and 25 (detail), discussion p. 13, 14
•1998 Vici MacDonald, Rosalie Gascoigne, Regaro Press, Sydney 1998, page 49 (full page, detail) and plate 11 page 112
•2004 Rosalie Gascoigne – Plain Air, City Gallery Wellington 2004, p. 46 (full page, detail)
•2008 Kelly Gellatly, Rosalie Gascoigne, NGV, Melbourne 2008 p. 69 (detail)

This is a piece for walking around and contemplating. It is about being in the country with its shifting light and shades of grey, its casualness and its prodigality.

Rosalie Gascoigne, 1981

Rosalie Gascoigne

– About the artist

b.1917 d.1999

Born 1917 Auckland, New Zealand. Died 1999 Canberra, ACT, Australia.

Learn more
– Other works by the artist

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