ROSALIE GASCOIGNE Pink on Blue 1982-83
Rosalie Gascoigne was an artist who lived and worked in Canberra and her work is strongly informed by the Monaro landscape that surrounds the capital. Gascoigne had a natural facility to bring together elements that speak softly of this place in a way that goes beyond mere literal description.
The central motif of Pink on Blue is constructed from two bunches of rough, off-cut pink slats. They are in a loose crosshatch arrangement in which one bunch runs vertically one way and the other runs horizontal. There is no attempt to strictly order the bunches, they have rough ends and are of irregular lengths. The way they have been placed partly resembles a roughly drawn cross-hatched chess board pattern. This is a pattern Gascoigne used in the masterful Piece to Walk Around (1981), made the year before Pink on Blue. This arrangement suggests, in a fairly abstract way, the flat landscape of the Monaro here stripped down to two basic elements of land and sky, in particular, the shimmering landscape of Lake George where lake and sky can seem to dissolve into one another.
Pink on Blue is a picture of the landscape in its own sense whilst being importantly of the landscape. The materials, weathered and changed by the elements, contain an essence of the place from which they had lived, been abandoned then rediscovered.
Works like Pink on Blue reveal Gascoigne’s abilities as a colourist of the highest order. Although the colours are found ones, the work’s combination of texture, tone and pattern are what unite it and give it meaning. Gascoigne’s colour is often bleached out and worn but this palette is deliberately chosen and manipulated. As we see from the blue of the crate, colour can be intense and jarring especially in combination with the pink slats, conjuring up a startling vision of the landscape.
The pink of the slats in Pink on Blue comes from a type of undercoat paint that occurs with some regularity through Gascoigne’s oeuvre, for instance in the early work Leaning Piece 1974 (formerly the collection of Ann Lewis now in the collection of the MCA Australia) which was included in Gascoigne’s ‘breakthrough’ exhibition at Gallery A in Sydney in 1974 through to the later austerity of multi panel works such as Plain View II (1994, private collection).
The blue slats that make up the second part of the title of Pink on Blue on the other hand suggest a different type of aesthetic experience, here they reveal Gascoigne as one of the great found object artists. Driving the back roads and byways of the landscape she loved, and had pulled into aesthetic consciousness completely, Gascoigne bartered, traded and scrounged her way across it stopping at dumps and roadsides to collect materials.
Here a series of Crystal soft drink packing cases provides a chattering murmur behind the subtle washes of pink. Could this somehow represent the sky too? A feeling of the blue expanses filled with all that air?