The art of Rosalie Gascoigne was born physically and aesthetically from the countryside around Canberra where she lived with her astronomer husband after emigrating from New Zealand in 1943. As she explained, ‘My country is the eastern seaboard, Lake George and the Highlands. Land that is clean scoured by the sun and frost.’
Gascoigne was a great collector and re-organiser of the world’s discarded surplus, into which she would breathe new life. She found beauty in the most ordinary and unassuming things, such as wooden Tarax and Schweppes crates, transforming them into an organic tessellation of repeating patterns that mimic the underlying rhythms of nature and enrich our understanding of it. Her foraging trips to the waste depots of Queanbeyan and Collector were the source and inspiration of many of her works, including Plenty, in which she reduced a pile of soft drink crates to small strips of wood that she joined together to construct a masterpiece referencing the formal art-historical notions of landscape, Modernism, Minimalism and assemblage art as well as broader concerns about the environment and humanity.
The title of the work Plenty is in itself a summation of Gascoigne’s practice. Her work depends upon the establishment of a grid and the repetition of a pattern, which can appear both random and ordered. It is this tessellation which, in Plenty, suggests Canberra’s rural summer landscape while at the same time becoming a meditation on the infinite.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2014
From: Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2014