Friday, March 26, 2010
Rosalie Gascoigne - Icon painting
Acrylic, imitation gold leaf and collage on board
Each section 20x30cm
I have signed up for one more semester of a weekly painting class. This time we are 'imagining what if a medieval icon painter, Vincent van Gogh and Matisse came here - how might they depict the contemporary Australia?'
We first looked at icon paintings from Greece, Russia and elsewhere, especially noting the use of gold leaf, combination of simplified, flat depiction and often heavily modelled forms and drapery. Icon painters often begin with a red underpainting.
For our own effort, we were to think of a contemporary Australian icon - a thing or place such as Sydney Opera House, an activity eg. surfing, or anything else. I chose to depict Rosalie Gascoigne (1917-1999), an Australian/New Zealand sculptor who worked with found materials, particularly wooden drink crates, yellow and orange road signs, builders' used masonite boards, old sheets of corrugated tin, linoleum scraps and doll parts, to evoke the Australian landscape. She scoured local dumps (and sometimes traded beer with road workers) to collect her materials, being inspired by the landscape of the undulating Canberra region at the same time. Many of her images look like quilts eg All that Jazz and Off the Beaten Track.
This time we had to do a dyptich, carefully designing the composition. I am very hesitant about doing 'landscapes' but considering the genre through someone else's eyes was a good way in.The gold leaf is generally applied last and is very fragile and fiddly but I like the effect.
By chance, I found a book about Justin O'Brien, an Australian painter who lived for much of his life in Rome. He was inspired by icon paintings and painted a number of works which include landscape, interior and still life all in the one piece. There is a retrospective of his work at the Art Gallery of NSW in December.