Elizabeth GOWER<br/>
born Australia 1952<br/>
<em>150 rotations</em> 2013 (detail)<br/>
collage <br/>
dimensions variable (installation)<br/>
Collection of the artist<br/>
© Elizabeth Gower, courtesy Sutton Gallery, Melbourne and Milani Gallery, Brisbane

Melbourne Now countdown – day 77

Elizabeth GOWER
born Australia 1952

Since the 1970s Elizabeth Gower has created and exhibited intricate collages, composed from detritus of everyday life which she carefully selects and arranges in rhythmic and geometric permutations.


Elizabeth can you tell us why collage is your preferred medium?


My current works are made exclusively from discarded papers gleaned directly from the domestic and local environment, such as junk mail, packaging, magazines, brochures. This retrieved detritus records the everyday and the transitory icons and symbols of affluent contemporary urban culture.


The mass produced, disposable printed papers used in my works are easily attainable. These humble materials imply fragility and impermanence, and their familiarity and immediacy remain embedded in the work’s content.

The location in which I find these residual materials and the quantity available directly influences the form and structure of the work. The immediacy of the ‘chance find’ mediates the direction and form of my works by simultaneously allowing spontaneity and imposing limitation.

The multiplicity of the material also enables and directs the recurrent systems and geometries that provide the matrix for my works. The repetition itself is analogous to materialism and excess, contemplation and routine.

Where do you find your materials? Your studio is a rainbow of cut and saved papers – can you describe your working method?



The materials are retrieved from daily use. I cut out various elements from this accumulated data depending on what my attention is drawn to at different times. For example for about 15 years I cut out merchandise  imagery from home shopping magazines, and more recently strips of text, swatches of colour, and currently advertising slogans.

The retrieved papers are collected, collated, stored and catalogued into various containers, then selected and arranged into complex geometric systems and patterns. This process of collection and collation has been a recurring methodology used in most of my work. For example as early as 1979, in the Biennale of Sydney catalogue, I wrote ‘As I am continually experimenting with new and diverse materials my work is very accessible to change. The process, however, of piecing together small repetitive units to make a whole, is an important re-occurring aspect of my work – a ritual relative to that of quilt making’.

Your work for Melbourne Now150 rotations, is a large wall-based collage that develops from an earlier collage included in an exhibition you curated recently. Would you like to tell us about this?

The work is assembled from an extensive collection of paper tea bag tags and cut-out bar codes, price tags and discount advertising slogans from junk mail catalogues that have accumulated in my studio over a number of years.

These masses of paper segments are collated according to kind, colour, size or shape, stored in labelled containers then temporarily re-configured on table tops and walls, to determine what to do with them.

For 150 Rotations I have replicated and expanded on this studio practice, arranging thousands of almost identical paper fragments into circular forms, fixed to the wall with Blu Tac, to create a temporary constellation.

The ‘low’ culture origins of the paper fragments remain embedded in and contribute to the larger narrative of the work.