Rosalie Gascoigne came to art late in life. Holding her first exhibition in 1974 at age 57, her career spanned 25 years, during which time her work was exhibited widely both in Australia and internationally until her death in 1999.
Gascoigne used mostly found materials: wood, iron, wire, feathers, and yellow and orange retro-reflective road signs, which flash and glow in the light. Some of her other best-known works use faded, once-bright drinks crates; thinly-sliced yellow Schweppes boxes; ragged domestic items such as torn floral lino and patchy enamelware; vernacular building materials such as galvanised tin, corrugated iron and masonite. These objects represent, rather than accurately depict, elements of the world around her: the landscape around her home in Canberra and the materials and textures of rural life.
Text is another important element of Gascoigne’s work; she would cut up and rearrange the faded, naive lettering found on these items to create abstract yet evocative grids of letters and word fragments.
However in later years both colour and text seemed to fade from her work, and she began to create meditative, elegiac compositions of white or earth-brown panels. Four years after her first exhibition in 1974, Gascoigne was the subject of a major survey exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria, and four years after that she was chosen to represent Australia at the 1982 Venice Biennale. Her works are held in most public collections in Australia including the National Gallery of Australia, New Parliament House, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, National Gallery of Victoria, Queensland Art Gallery, Art Gallery of Western Australia, Art Gallery of South Australia, National Art Gallery, Wellington, New Zealand as well as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. A major retrospective of Gascoigne’s work was exhibited at the Wellington City Gallery in 2004.