Rosemary Gascoyne - Landscapes of the MInd

The text of an article by Jeremy Carlisle written to coincide with an exhibition of Rosemary's work at the Gracefield Arts Centre in Dumfries in 2005.

Rosemary Gascoyne began her formal art education at the age of 45 and graduated five years later with a Dip AD and a B.A. Hons Degree in Fine Art. This relatively late start helped foster a sense of urgency and commitment to her work, which she maintains to this day. This commitment has extended to the wider community of artists and those interested in the visual arts. On leaving college Rosemary set up the ‘New Ground Gallery’ in Brighton to showcase the work of ceramicists and other applied arts graduates. On moving to Scotland in 1993 a new venture was begun in the ‘Cree Gallery’, which provided a much needed venue in the area for contemporary, innovative and challenging art. More recently a move to Dairy has enabled Rosemary to concentrate entirely on her own practice.

At college Rosemary was fortunate in two of her painting tutors, Jack Smith and Chris Le Brun. These two accomplished painters, Jack Smith a Modernist, Chris Le Brun a Neo-Romantic, encouraged their students to think hard about the underlying principles of painting and to give equal weight to formal considerations and emotional expression . As can be seen from several examples in this exhibition, drawing was considered to be central to the development of an artist’s understanding of the world around them and its representation in art. At college and at the beginning of Rosemary’s career, life drawing played a crucial role in the development of her work. As a discipline it is often seen as a means to an end but for Rosemary these were never just exercises - feeling and passion underlie the concentrated , involved looking. These two key elements in art: firstly, a sophisticated, rigorous approach to formal considerations, the ‘drawing’, geometry of the image and secondly, the emotional energy that determines the mood of the work, are brought together in Rosemary’s paintings. The artist has often said of her craft that aI/ painting is abstract. This statement is the key to understanding her work. That, although there may be references in the paintings of a figurative nature the paintings stand or fall on their own terms, that from one important viewpoint, all paintings are ultimately shapes on a flat surface.

Rosemary never repeats herself; each painting is a new departure, a new adventure. Jack Smith encouraged Rosemary to use collage as a way of working out and experimenting with design on a flat surface. This was a formative experience for the artist. Collage is a very powerful way of  directing the maker’s attention to the essentially abstract nature of painting. Working with shapes that aren’t subject to change, as brushstrokes are, encourages an appreciation of the rhythms, balances and harmonies of painting in a clear and unambiguous way. From these beginnings a working method evolved which built on these lessons. Working in oils, an intensely coloured ground is laid down, then, working in an intuitive, instinctive way, calligraphic marks are briskly drawn over the surface. Freely brushed grids, arcs and blocks create structures for further broad areas of paint. Initially hand and eye are given a free rein, chance arrangements and juxtapositions are exploited. This openness of approach requires a degree of courage and nerve. There is nothing, however, haphazard about such methods, the process is long and involved and much work is discarded.

As the paintings evolve they begin to take on a logic of their own and make their own demands. Figurative references that emerge may be emphasised, or, if the painting demands it, over-painted. Bowl, bottle and pot shapes often create harmonious structures in the finished work. Paintings such as ‘ Composition 2’ and ‘Night Boats’ pull one’s attention to quite distinct figurative shapes. ‘Oriental’ and ‘Yellow Landscape’ are more ambiguous. Forms are broader, less overtly representational, though colours and shapes can still be resolved and associated with specific subjects, as indicated in their titles. ‘Nostalgia’ and ‘Vespers’, in contrast, are more abstract, the subject is more hidden, elusive, mysterious. It should be stressed though that there is nothing vague or ‘abstract’ about their mood; they resonate with meaning and depth of feeling.

Above all these paintings are celebratory.  Forms are created that remind us of the richness of the world around us; their calligraphy and rich colour harmonies stand for the energy and spirit of life itself.

Jeremy Carlisle