Rosalie Gascoigne

Top of the Morning, 1994
foamboard, masonite, retroreflective roadsign on craftboard
53.0 x 130.0 cm
signed, dated and titled on reverse

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Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney
Private collection, Sydney since 1994

Rosalie Gascoigne, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney, April 1994, cat.9

Rosalie Gascoigne always had a great love of language, displaying it visually through her cut-up road signs works and through her poetic, humorous and colloquial phrases used as titles for her work. 'Top of the Morning' is an Irish 'good morning' greeting, commonly heard in country Australia.

The work itself shows the beginning of the day with the sparkling sun rising (in the left panels) to bring a warm blue sky day over the Canberra hills (right hand panels). Gascoigne has used her found materials - retroreflective roadsign and masonite - to minimally display the warmth and simplicity of the perfect day.

Top of the Morning, clearly pays homage to Gascoigne's fellow artist, Colin McCahon. Born in the same year, Gascoigne and McCahon were the by-products of similar schooling and, despite extraordinarily different career paths, had remarkably aligned interests in poetry, language, landscape and modern art. After seeing his retrospective Gates and Journeys in 1989, Gascoigne created her own domestic homage to McCahon." (G Brien, 'Plain air/plain song', Rosalie Gascoigne Plain Air, Wellington, 2004, pp.47-48)

Like Suddenly the Lake, (National Gallery of Australia collection), Top of the Morning, pays direct homage to McCahon with its use of hill forms seen often in McCahon's work Landscape Theme and Variations: Series B, 1963; The Gate Series: No.4, 1962; Otago Landscape, 1964 and Waterfall paintings.

  • Top of the Morning

Courtesy the artist's estate and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney

View artist profile

A relative latecomer to the art world, Rosalie Gascoigne made an incredible contribution to Australian landscape. It was only after practicing ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arranging, from 1962 that Gascoigne began to turn seriously towards the visual arts. Beginning with iron assemblages from 1964, in the 1970s she made works from animal bones and found objects from Australian country houses. Her aim there and across her career was to depict the land using materials found upon it, a cycle of reuse that mirrors the diversity of relationships that Australians have with the landscape.

In her late work, Gascoigne moved away from the pure display of found objects into more rigorous compositions. From the 1980s, she began using reflective road signs, incorporating text in a gridlike manner reminiscent of crossword puzzles, a favourite pastime. Originally taking the signs as she found them, she began to become more involved in slicing them herself, producing intricate grids of words resembling parquetry. Armed with these segments of yellow signs, sheets of corrugated iron, linoleum and wood, she produced highly textural works, including many large-scale installations.

Gascoigne was born in 1917 in Auckland, New Zealand. She graduated from Auckland University in 1939 and moved to Canberra, ACT in 1943. Her artistic career spanned over 30 years, launched at the age of fifty by the support of the then National Gallery of Australia director, James Mollison. Gascoigne held her last solo exhibition at Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney just months before her death in 1999.

In 1982 Gascoigne represented Australia at the 40th Venice Biennale with Peter Booth. Since that time she has been included in many important group exhibitions and solo survey exhibitions in Australia, New Zealand and Europe; such as, at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (2009); Wellington City Gallery, Wellington, New Zealand (2004); Drill Hall Gallery, Australian National University, Canberra (2000), and with the major survey Material as Landscape, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 1997 touring to the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra (1998). Gascoigne's work is held in every state collection in Australia and many regional collections. Rosalie Gascoigne: A Catalogue Raisonné, was published by ANU Press in 2019, compiled by her son, Martin Gascoigne.