The James Gleeson oral history collection
James Gleeson interviews Australia's major artists
Tiepolo's parrots 1976
61.2 x 56.42 x 23.0 cm
8 February 1980 in Canberra
James Gleeson: We will talk about Tiepolo parrots now. Are these the Arnott’s biscuits parrots?
Rosalie Gascoigne: Yes. I had been looking at a lot of books, perhaps about Pompeii, and those walls—
James Gleeson: Frescos?
Rosalie Gascoigne: Yes, the frescos and the wall that has decayed and just these old faded paintings. I had seen the Tiepolo ceiling at the gallery, and I was very much on about fade and those beautiful pink/green/blue Italian colours—especially the Italian colours—and that sort of dimly perceived pattern. Most of the parrots had been on boxes that had been out in the weather and they had taken a fade. The ones on the top panel were a line of parrots that Arnott’s used to put out that were blue. I do not think they put them out now. I had a lot of those. Then I sort of worked it up. With the top part I was also thinking a bit about those biblical paintings of the loaves and fishes and things all crowding together. What I went for was a feel. I knew when I had a feel that made me feel that way. So that suddenly arrived. It had been whatever it was—and nobody was saying what it was. It was an arrived statement. It was something. I had a lot of trouble with the bottom part because I wanted to keep the flat feel. You did not want something coming out the front. It was about walls and things. But still I had that ledge at the bottom. That had been two boxes, one put on another.
James Gleeson: Are they bolted together or joined—
Rosalie Gascoigne: They are bolted there. This had, I think, come down the river; it had a very good weathering on it. This unlikely piece here is an egg box, but the fading—
James Gleeson: Is it ‘5,000’ or ‘50,000’?
Rosalie Gascoigne: Yes, but I like to think that you don’t have to read that. It just happens to make an artistic statement that is the right weight, the right pattern, the right fade. Eventually it worked.
James Gleeson: When you are working with things like this, and they perhaps do not have quite the right fade that you want, or quite the right colour, do you ever interfere and add colour?
Rosalie Gascoigne: I wouldn’t be above anything, as long as it reads right to me. If it reads false and I don’t like it, that’s it. But I would do anything to gain my ends.
James Gleeson: So you do perhaps touch up things with colour—
Rosalie Gascoigne: I don’t because I am not very clever at it; I’m no good with a paintbrush. But I would if I could, and if I needed it. I spend a lot more energy than most people, a lot more illogical time. I search for things. I’m indefatigable. When I know I want an example like that, I will go after it. I will go through a country dump. Eventually you get what you want. Or you get something that works as well.