the unquiet landscapes of Rosemary Laing, at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney. 23 March – 5 June 2005.
Published Tuesday, 5 April 2005With the undoubted significance of Australian photography as the medium of growing interest to local and international collectors and curators, reflected by the prices gained by artists at auction and in private exhibitions, the work of Rosemary Laing is pivotal.
Sydney-based photographer Rosemary Laing's vision of the Australian landscape is both eery and beautiful. It's also tightly woven into the complex histories and stories that make the landscape ‘mean’ something. At first glance these are simply beautiful, film-like images —glossy, intensely coloured and panoramic. But look further and they reveal much more.
Laing’s work is all about dramatisation, using people, props and stunts to create miniperformances in which the landscape symbolises something other than the ‘usual’. From these elements Laing crafts beautiful, hyperreal images that seem impossible. But there is no digital manipulation here. Her approach is unique in its use of real-time events, tailormade installations and performers. She works in collaboration with the community of each area as well as professionals from a range of disciplines, from film stunt producers to carpet manufacturers, to create works of cinematic scale that combine panoramic vistas with the unexpected.
Rosemary Laing is held in very high esteem as an Australian artist, having produced works of enormous appeal and cultural significance over the past 15 years. Her international profile and reputation have become firmly established over the past decade with her inclusion in exhibitions such as the Busan Biennale, Korea (2004); Face Up: Contemporary Art from Australia at the Nationalgalerie im Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin, Germany (2003); and recent solo exhibitions at the Brisbane City Gallery (2002) and Domus Artium 2002, Salamanca, Spain (2004).
In this, the MCA’s first major exhibition of Rosemary Laing, the focus is on recent output, including works dealing with flight including flight research (1999) and bulletproofglass (2002); series dealing with landscape including groundspeed (2001) and one dozen unnatural disasters in the Australian landscape (2003); and a component of new work undertaken in South Australia. In 2002 Laing first showed her series of bride images bulletproofglass in New York, where it was instantly billed as a ‘must-see’ exhibition by the New York Times.
The series was a return to a theme that Laing had explored a few years earlier, in flight research (1999). The bride, appearing to hover in the sky in the first series, is shot and bloodied in the later work, a telling development of the image stimulated by the failure of Australia’s republican referendum, the Sydney bushfires of December 2001, and global disasters of the intervening years. Rosemary Laing’s exhibition comes at an important time in the artist’s career. In the coming months she will show across Europe and the USA, her international profile fast gaining momentum and her extraordinary images placing her at the very forefront of contemporary art.