Rosalie Gascoigne Glows at Goulburn – Rose Niland Review

Lake George Canberra

A view of the elusive Lake George nearby to Australia’s capital city, Canberra.

New Zealand born Australian sculptor Rosalie Gascoigne (1917 – 1999) was drawn to the landscape of Lake George that lies between Canberra and Goulburn.

The Daylight Moon Rosalie Gascoigne And Lake George exhibition currently showing at Goulbourn Regional Art Gallery in Australia’s first inland city located in the Southern Tablelands of New South Wales, celebrates the landscape.

The impact of this countryside was indelibly printed on Rosalie Gascoigne’s ten artworks.

She masterfully imbued her response to the rural landscape by lovingly and patiently handling her treasured found materials until they formed structures that abounded in tonal nuances and evoked a sense of order.

The stillness of her artworks merged contemplation and poetic imagery into subtle and elegant assemblages. She has rejoiced in the landscape through patterning moments of visual discovery and linking old and worn materials with poignant memories.

Rosalie GascoignePiece to walk around from Kasia

Rosalie Gascoigne, Piece to Walk Around, 1981. Saffron thistle sticks, 380 x 480 cm approx. Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program by the Gascoigne Family, 2011. Image courtesy the artist’s estate and Museum of Contemporary Art Australia © Rosalie Gascoigne’s Estate/ Licensed by Viscopy, 2015

The exhibition made me recall my own reactions to the land on my many visits to Canberra as I drove around Lake George.

The core of the endless country with its weathered colour variations and changing appearance is fashioned in abstraction from saffron thistle sticks in Place to Walk Around (1981).

Each stick has aged to produce a range of earthy faded colour differences.

The shades of the grid shifted and changed as the viewer walked the boundaries of the artwork.

The illusive effects of diversity across the land and water were succinctly captured in the ease of the criss-cross arrangements and the loose and rhythmical character of the materials.

Water, sky and land moved as one.

Rosalie Gascoigne’s first foray into creativity was her work with Ikebana, a Japanese form of floral arrangement.

Although she moved well beyond this form of expression it cemented her understanding of the elements of design and the significance of emotional responses in the creative process.

This was especially palpable in A Place to Walk Around.


Ten years on in 1991 Rosalie Gascoigne (pictured) created Lambing from torn linoleum on board.

This abstract depiction of an almost jig-saw configuration of lamb’s fleeces scattered across the brown earth revealed a passion for the landscape and a refined understanding that evolved from her constant travels for materials.

In a conversation included in a catalogue for an earlier Rosalie Gascoigne exhibition Marie Hagerty reported “driving in the country was for her what drawing is for me. Liberating.”

The dull grey green of the linoleum flecked with black, the cross hatching lines of wheat colour and the weathered painted board combined effortlessly to define the topography of sheep country and the viewer could almost touch the encrusted soil beneath.

Lambing was full of life in the movement of the shapes as they frolicked but never collided.

The composition was playful and the tones changed in the three panels with the fall of light. The clarity of form and structure was eloquently illustrated in this work.

I felt a close alignment between the two assemblages Lambing and Sheep Weather Alert however the contrast lay in the movement in the first work and the silence in the second.

The animals appeared instinctive in their responses and their impressive sense of hearing caused some of the sheep to be crouching and seeking protection from the elements.

The flat monochrome diluted paint brushed over the outlines of the sheep intensified the fear of the moment. There was a sense of motionlessness that pervaded the beige, green beige, soft charcoal and pale lemon colours of the artwork.

The forms and colours created a harmony even though there was the confusion of fear and anticipation.

The misty haze of moonlight and jewels of silver moisture filtered through the subtle placement of muted colours and smoky light in Plain View 2 from 1994.

This work was sparse, pared back to reveal a certainty about the significance of a country weathered by time and the seasons, inspirational in the eyes of the beholder, Rosalie Gascoigne.

I thought it was a contemplative artwork that reaped glimpses and moments in time. Winds whispered and wheeled across the composition. It was conceptually visionary in its underlying austerity.

Top of the Morning

Rosalie Gascoigne, Top of the Morning, 1994. Form board, masonite, retro-reflective road sign on craft board, 4 panels, 53 x 130 cm overall. Private collection, Sydney. Image courtesy Annette Larkin Fine Art, Sydney © Rosalie Gascoigne’s Estate/ Licensed by Viscopy, 2015

Plain View 2 revealed an internalization of the endless country, the power of isolation and the consolation and comfort of working and living in a familiar pastoral environment.

Three of the works were constructed from corrugated iron panels on wood.

In White Garden 1995 twelve panels cast moonlit shadows that shimmered and glowed on the earth, lighting the layers of time and the evolving surface of the land.

Tufts of pale lemon dry grass poked between the spindly curved shapes of the trees. The rolling folds of the corrugated iron gave rhythmical movement and sensuality to the configuration and the beauty inherit within the discarded objects.

Like Plain View 2, White Garden was etched with a palette of peppered greys that applied an intimacy and respectful reference to the scenery of the Lake George region.

The grid assemblage of sawn wood on plywood in Wood Clip 1995 expressed the land as a patchwork construction with varied and changing influences.

A second tier of wooden blocks intensified the aerial view of the landscape.

The earthy colours caressed the shapes, and textures of the wood built the enigmatic nature of the country.

Ropsalie Gascoigne Wool Clip 1995

Rosalie Gascoigne, Wool Clip, 1995. Sawn wood on plywood, 71.5 x 93 cm. Private collection, Sydney. Image courtesy Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney © Rosalie Gascoigne’s Estate/ Licensed by Viscopy, 2015

The patterning of the wood blocks in Wood Clip was echoed in the markings of the linoleum in Poplars 19 1996-97 where the tree trunks drizzled with organic groves and nodules of time.

To me this was a stronger bolder work where the mystery of trees was etched in the structure of the composition.

A brighter light shone from the retro-reflective strip perhaps suggesting the scene was caught at a different time of day from the other artworks in the exhibition.

This commemorative exhibition was tempered by the silvery light of the moon and a smoky grey haze shrouded the viewer in an extraordinary insight into Rosalie Gascoigne’s beloved Lake George.

Rosalie Gascoine shared her interpretation and emotional connection to the landscape in visually poetic formations.

I could feel the cold of winter and the stifling heat of summer, the wind and rain, smell the seasons and hear the ghostly silence of this minimalist landscape. I could also see the links to Fred Williams and Tom Roberts.

Rose Niland, Special Features, The Culture Concept Circle, 2015

The Daylight Moon
Rosalie Gascoigne And Lake George

26 June – 22 August 2015

Goulburn Art Regional Gallery
Cnr Church & Bourke Sts. Goulburn NSW 2580

1 Comment

  • Martin Gascoigne says:

    Hello Rose

    Lovely review. One of the best pieces of writing about Rosalie I have seen. Where did you get the photo of the fence in the lake? Do you know the work Feathered Fence 1978-9 NGA which is exactly about that? . “I’ve always loved those long, pure horizontal lines of fences that stretch out across the shallows of Lake George, almost as if they are floating.” She referred to them as “the drowning fences of Lake George. … You could see where the tide comes in and drowns the fences. The optimistic farmers put their cattle there and then the lake rises again and the fences go, drowned into the lake. It’s all about levels. The levels of the lake are like that, and the levels of the country are like that, and it’s very pure.”

    Your reference to poetic images – Rosalie spoke of her work as about feelings, and often quoted Wordsworth’s “emotion recollected in tranquility” when talking of her creative process.

    Plain View 2: That was a very minimalist one I did . I was doing a thing about air, just the variations of the grey and the white made it read for me. Somebody has actually bought that by itself. It hangs by itself in a room, very peaceful, very quiet, but actually it can say more if you let it say more to you, if you are amenable to it in the first place, then you can dwell with it as it were. (1999 AucklAG) One of her favourite drives took her through Gundaroo, up over the hill, and down to Collector, bypassing the Federal Highway, and with a stop on the escarpment overlooking Lake George just before the road descends to Collector. “Standing on the ridge above Lake George … you suddenly find that there’s nothing much there but everything’s there for you, and there’s the white cockatoos going over, which I think are marvelous, Lake George floating away to the right, lots of air, and the air is beautiful. What’s that Shakespeare quote in Macbeth? “This castle hath a pleasant seat; the air nimbly and sweetly recommends itself unto our gentle senses”. It was a place she liked to take visitors “That’s what Australia’s like, the distance, the height, the clarity … Everything is there that you could possibly need…. the place is splendidly ornamented – ornamented, but it’s not trying, it’s not standing on its ear putting everything in. There’s enough there. … the grey fence posts, the cockatoos, the whiteness, the nothingness, the everythingness of it. … And the sense that I get of that place is lots of air and freedom. And you’ve got to have the towering sky.”


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