Rosemary Laing

bulletproofglass #1, 2002
Type C photograph
120.0 x 208.5 cm
signed, dated and inscrbed with title (on the reverse)

View extended notes

Gitte Weise Gallery, Sydney
Martin Browne Fine Art, Sydney
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2008

This now-iconic image is the first photograph in Rosemary Laing's seminal series 'bulletproofglass'. When this series debuted in New York in 2002, it was heralded a 'must-see' exhibition by the New York Times. The suite was also included in the artist's 2005 survey exhibition 'The Unquiet Landscapes of Rosemary Laing' at the Museum of Contemporary Art.

'bulletproofglass #1' picks up where Laing's 1999 series flight research left off; the airborne bride cast against a brilliant blue sky. However, whereas in the earlier series the bride appears peaceful and pristine in her Elizabethan gown, in 'bulletproofglass' she is shot through her centre, bloodied and frozen in a moment of horror.

This startling and yet stunning image perfectly encapsulates what Laing does best: firing the viewer's imagination with unexpected juxtaposition. The unlikely image conjures endless possible narratives, like a photographic still from a lost film. Conceptually, the violent imagery of the 'bulletproofglass' series was informed by what the artist considered to be a darkening of the social climate of the time. This was a result of events like the failure of Australia's republican referendum, the Sydney bushfires of 2001 and the September 11 attacks.

Although Laing's skillfully executed surreal photographs may look digitally manipulated, they are not. The artist creates her images by choreographing and directing performers in elaborately staged real-time events, a process more akin to film-making than traditional still photography. 'bulletproofglass #1' was realised with the collaboration of an extensive crew of professionals including a stunt woman to perform the role of the airborne bride. Staged in the Blue Mountains National Park in New South Wales, this large-scale panoramic print presents a fresh take on the traditions of both landscape and portrait photography.

  • bulletproofglass #1

Courtesy of the artist

View artist profile

Rosemary Laing is a photo-based artist with a painter’s eye. Her highly detailed, intentional compositions meditate upon humankind’s complicated relationship to the natural environment. The resulting images combine a sublime appreciation of the distinct Australian landscape with highly choreographed human interventions that she integrates within nature in what amounts, in essence, to a transient form of land art.

Born in 1959 in Brisbane, Laing has been working and exhibiting since the 1980s. She trained as a painter in the late-1970s before turning to photography, which was at first just a form of reference material. Laing rose to prominence with her flight research (1999) and Bulletproof glass (2002) series of floating brides, images that defy reason in their composition and surreal quality, especially since they were shot without the assistance of digital composition.

In 2017-18, Laing was the subject of a major survey of her work from the last three decades at the TarraWarra Museum of Art, Healesville, Victoria. In 2015, two of her photographic series – greenwork (1995) and brownwork (1996-97) – were shown in full in Rosemary Laing: transportation, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney. An earlier major survey, The Unquiet Landscapes of Rosemary Laing, was held at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, in 2005, touring in 2006 to Kunsthallen Brandts Klaedefabrik, Odense, Denmark. She has participated in multiple biennials, including the Biennale of Sydney (2008); the Venice Biennale (2007); the Busan Biennale (2004); and the Istanbul Biennale (1995).

In 2019, Laing received the Overseas Photographer Award at the 35th Higashikawa Awards, Hokkaido, Japan, in career recognition of photographic achievements such as weather (2006); leak (2010) and Buddens (2017). A monograph on Laing’s work was published by Prestel, New York, in 2012, written by Abigail Solomon-Godeau.