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Rosalie Gascoigne

Piece to Walk Around 1981

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 1.5 W 380 D 480cm

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

Martin Gascoigne, statement written for the donation of the work by the Gascoigne family, 2011

Glenn Barkley, Statement of Significance, MCA Object File, 2011

Quotation: Artist’s statement in catalogue for 1981 Australian Sculpture Triennial “Processes/Installations/Environments” p. 38

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

Rosalie Gascoigne is best known for her distinctive and poetic assemblages of found objects. She brought diverse materials from everyday life into new frames of reference, often working with items that had been discarded and left to weather, finding beauty in them that would normally be overlooked.

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