Nicola Francis

Historian Nicola ‘Niki’ Francis is a Pākehā New Zealander of English, German and Scottish origins. She has lived in the UK, Iraq, Germany, Belgium and Australia and now lives between the sea and the bush in Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand. Prior to doing her PhD on which this biography is based, she worked for human rights and conservation NGOs, as parish minister and hospice chaplain.

Niki worked for the Australian Dictionary of Biography and contributed to it as an author, and for Ngā Tāngata Taumata Rau, the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. In Canberra she was an active member of the Australian Women’s Archive Project and contributed multiple entries and essays to the online Australian Women’s Register.

‘My own sort of heaven’ »

A life of Rosalie Gascoigne

Authored by: Nicola Francis
Publication date: 2024
Widely regarded as a major Australian artist, Rosalie Gascoigne first exhibited in 1974 at the age of fifty-seven. She rapidly achieved critical acclaim for her assemblages which were her response to the Monaro landscape surrounding Canberra. The great blonde paddocks, vast skies and big raucous birds contrasted with the familiar lush green harbour city of Auckland she had left behind. Her medium: weathered discards from the landscape. By her death in 1999, her work had been purchased for major public art collections in Australia, Aotearoa New Zealand and New York, and had been exhibited across Europe and Asia. Gascoigne’s story is often cast in simple terms—an inspirational tale of an older woman ‘finding herself’ later in life and gaining artistic acclaim. But the reality is much more complex and contingent. This biography explores Gascoigne’s achievement of her ‘own sort of heaven’ through the frame of the narrative she told once she had gained fame, using a series of interviews she gave from 1980 to 1998. It revolves around her frequently stated sense of feeling an outsider, her belief that artists are born not made, and other factors central to the development and impact of her work. Migrating to Australia from New Zealand in 1943, Gascoigne experienced the dramatic social changes of the 1960s and 1970s and benefited from the growth of cultural life in Canberra, a developing Australian art industry, and changing conceptions of aesthetic beauty.

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