(Australia 1959 – )
110.0 x 219.0 cm image; 125.9 x 239.2 cm sheet
In a career which has spanned three decades, Rosemary Laing has eloquently and consistently investigated cultural positions from which we understand the complex nature of place and landscape. Her images disrupt the equilibrium of our awareness by blending contradictory elements. A bride hovering above a landscape or mass-produced furniture located in the Australian outback are visual juxtapositions which produce a poised tension. Through interventions into or involvement with already charged spaces, including airports, the sky, rainforest or desert, Laing’s photography suggests poetic changes in reality, perception and meaning. Australian colonial landscape painting and its attendant socio-political ramifications also inform Laing’s expansive practice as she develops distinctive ways to comprehend our relationship with our environment.
Laing produces her carefully orchestrated panaromic photographs in series. She has collaborated with astrophysicists, airline employees, film stunt producers and artists. ‘groundspeed (Red Piazza) #4’ is from the series ‘groundspeed’, in which patterned Feltex carpet is laid on the forest floor or on the edge of a rocky coastal setting. This particular image uses retro Red Piazza carpet in the forest at the George Boyd Lookout in southern New South Wales. The carpet is obviously incongruous to the forest, even though its floral pattern is inspired by nature. The lush saturated colours are typical of Laing’s work. Here, red and green – opposites on the colour spectrum – are placed in combination, heightening the tone and conceptual vigour of the union. In each photograph from the series, nature is shown as living and abundant; from the fecund, green forest to, in other images, the ferocity of waves breaking against the coast.
The title is an amalgamation of Laing’s concerns: ‘ground’ refers to land and solidity, and ‘speed’ references flight and impermanence. Placed together these terms conceptually summarise the visual considerations at work. In a reversal of accepted norms in which nature is distanced from domestic living and where nature is historically sidelined by cultural pursuits, Laing figuratively brings the inside out. In so doing ‘groundspeed’ makes concrete the unstable and provocative rapport between habitation and inhabitation, stillness and movement, growth and decay. Laing’s vibrant images subsume the visual in a historical, social and cultural dialogue where the ground keeps shifting.
© Art Gallery of New South Wales Contemporary Collection Handbook, 2006
Natasha Bullock, Contemporary: Art Gallery of New South Wales Contemporary Collection, 'Landscape, mapping, nature', pg.290-331, Sydney, 2006, 294, 316, 317 (colour illus.).
Vivienne Webb and Abigail Solomon-Godeau, The unquiet landscapes of Rosemary Laing, Sydney, 2005, 10 (colour illus.).
The unquiet landscapes of Rosemary Laing, Museum of Contemporary Art, Australia, 23 Mar 2005–05 Jun 2005