Rosalie Gascoigne

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Media Release: February, 2004. 

During the 2004 International Festival of the Arts,  City Gallery Wellington will celebrate the career of one of Australasia’s most successful artists, New Zealand-born Rosalie Gascoigne (1917-1999).

Running from 22 February to 16 May 2004, this ground-breaking exhibition will present a large body of work from throughout Gascoigne’s career allowing New Zealand audiences to discover and celebrate her art, her life and the contributions she has made to the art world down-under.

Rosalie Gascoigne’s works can be found in prestigious collections around the world including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and her reputation in New Zealand is growing. This major City Gallery Wellington survey exhibition of her work will be the first to be held in a public art institution in this country.

Gascoigne’s unique art was originally forged through a passion for Ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arranging. She then embraced everyday materials of all kinds including old reflective road signs and bright yellow soft drink crates – materials scavenged from ditches and dumps – cutting them up and assembling them to create unique, striking work.

Curated by New Zealand writer and poet Gregory O’Brien, who has been researching her work since 1999, with City Gallery Wellington Director Paula Savage, the exhibition will chart the evolution of Gascoigne’s work, beginning with a number of the early constructions (many sourced from the Gascoigne family collection), moving on towards the epic works of her mature years.

'This exhibition will come as a huge surprise to many New Zealanders,' O'Brien says. 'The works are audacious and, remarkably given the plainness of the artist's materials, strikingly beautiful. It's extraordinary to think that an artist in her sixties and seventies could produce such large-scale works as Monaro and Metropolis – two of Gascoigne's masterpieces which are included in the exhibition. These are among the most youthful, energetic artworks you will see anywhere.'

Born in Auckland, Gascoigne lived in the North Island for the first 26 years of her life and then moved to Australia as a war bride taking up residence in Canberra. Her artistic career took off in the 1970s when she was in her late fifties and Gascoigne is now celebrated as one on Australasia’s most successful women artists. In 1982 she was the first woman to represent Australia at the Venice Biennale.

City Gallery Wellington’s exhibition will focus on the way Gascoigne has processed the memory of certain locations – including the New Zealand scene – in her work. As with other expatriate New Zealand-born artists such as Frances Hodgkins, Katherine Mansfield and Len Lye, childhood memory and the imprint of early landscape are poignant factors in Gascoigne’s work. The exhibition explores the influence of the New Zealand high country and landforms on Gascoigne and also the influence of Colin McCahon on her work.

The works in the exhibition will be complemented by a documentary film of Gascoigne talking about her upbringing in New Zealand and her career in Australia. City Gallery Wellington will also publish an exhibition catalogue in conjunction with Victoria University Press. With an introduction by City Gallery director Paula Savage, the publication includes essays by curator Gregory O’Brien, ex-director of the Art Gallery of South Australia Daniel Thomas and novelist Barbara Anderson. It includes colour reproductions of many Gascoigne works that have not been seen before.

PRINCIPAL SPONSOR: ERNST & YOUNG

Supported by: Creative New Zealand and Roderick & Gillian Deane

Indemnified by the New Zealand Government: Ministry of Culture and Heritage Te Manatu Taonga

City Gallery Wellington is managed by The Wellington Museums Trust with major funding support from Wellington City Council