Rosemary Laing

one dozen unnatural disasters in the australian landscape #2 , 2003
Type C photograph, number 9 from an edition of 12
60.0 x 112.0 cm
signed, dated, numbered and inscribed with title (on the reverse)

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The artist
Corporate collection, Sydney

This sensational drama-filled photograph is part of Rosemary Laing's 2003 series 'one dozen unnatural disasters in the australian landscape'. In this acclaimed suite of photographs, Laing introduces elaborate man-made installations into the sparsely inhabited natural landscapes of the North-East regions of Western Australia. This area is home to the county's largest concentration of Indigenous Australians.

In 'one dozen unnatural disasters in the australian landscape #2', black smoke billows violently from a flaming car wreck, enveloping the surrounding land. There is a disturbing disjuncture between the explosive automobile and the quiet desert landscape, creating a critical commentary on the invasive activity of colonization.

Laing's staged interventions in the landscape have become increasingly ambitious over the years and involve extensive planning and resources. Her approach is unique in its use of real-time events and physical installations, rather than effects achieved through digital manipulation. The artist staged and shot 'one dozen unnatural disasters in the australian landscape #2' on a roadside in the Tanami Desert. Working with a large crew of collaborators, the scale and process of Laing's undertakings can be compared to that of a film shoot. Furthermore, by recording the events in process, the images often resemble film stills, or what the artist refers to as "distillations of time".

  • one dozen unnatural disasters in the  australian landscape #2

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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.