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Signwriter: the art of Rosalie Gascoigne

February 10, 2012

She may not be much known out of her native Australia, and even here she has a limited audience. I first came across her work on a visit to this continent when I was still living in London, by the date of the catalogue from which these illustrations are taken, sometime over 1998/1999. She died in October 1999 so this exhibition, held at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, was to be something of a memorial.

Typographers will be drawn to her work immediately, as I was – although she trained as a flower arranger in the Japanese sense of that term (ikebana), and only took to art in the mid-1970s. (She was born in New Zealand in 1917, moving to Oz in 1943.) Gascoigne collected – that is what she did, including scraps of signs she found on roads near her home, assembling them into sculptural entities, much as she used to ‘assemble’ floral arrangements.

She wrote in the catalogue: “Beware of nice things that you find that say nothing: they are like new wood from a hardware shop. I look for things that have been somewhere, done something. Second hand materials aren’t deliberate; they have had sun and wind on them. Simple things. From simplicity you get profundity…I am not making pictures, I make feelings…I want to make art without telling a story: it must be allusive, lyrical”.

The first piece shown here is titled Southerly buster (1995, 117cm x 115cm); the second is a detail from Far View of 1990 (three panels, total dimensions 89cm x 221cm) and is made of sawn soft drink crates.

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