Rosemary Laing

flight research #3, 1999
Type C photograph, number 1 from an edition of 3, IE
90.0 x 90.0 cm
signed and dated, titled and numbered (on reverse)

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Gitte Weise Gallery, Sydney
Private collection, Sydney

Another from the edition was exhibited in:
The unquiet landscapes of Rosemary Laing, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, 23 March-5 June 2005

Another from the edition was illustrated in
V Webb, The unquiet landscapes of Rosemary Laing, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, 2005, illus. p.29
Abigail Solomon-Godeau, Rosemary Laing, Piper Press, Sydney, 2012, illus. p.90 

Staggering in its beauty and strangeness, this photograph is part of Rosemary Laing's seminal 'flight research' series completed between 1998-2000. In it, an airborne bride is cast against a brilliant sky, paradoxically seeming to be both in motion and eerily still. The astonishing image seems to make possible the impossibility of human flight, not through digital manipulation but rather an elaborate physical intervention in the landscape. The hyper-real tableau was constructed by directing and documenting a powerful stuntwoman - costumed in an old-fashioned wedding dress - being projected through space.

Laing's famously ambitious photographic practice commemorates these site-specific interventions undertaken throughout Australia. In 'flight research #3', Laing literally turns the idea of landscape portraiture on its head. Here, the traditional figure-in-the-landscape is not in the landscape at all, but rather diving into it. The image captures the joyous feeling of being unhindered by gravity and, created in 1999 on the eve of the new millennium, also embodies Laing's optimism for the new era. A later series of work titled 'bulletproofglass' would cast a bloodied bride against darker, more ominous skies.

The artist's fascination with flight began in 1994 when she moved into a studio in Sydney's Leichhardt, directly under the flight path. She became seduced by the idea of aeronautical engineering and later undertook a period of research at NASA to explore the machinations of space travel. Rosemary Laing's art practice literary grew wings as it came to visually depict the sensation, mystery and mechanics of flight.

  • flight research #3

Image courtesy of Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne and the artist

View artist profile

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

Born in 1959 in Brisbane, Laing worked and exhibited from the early 1980s until her untimely death in 2024. 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. Her work has been included 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.