Rosemary Laing’s artistic practice deals with time, transformation, and connection to place. Her work often acts as an intermediary between grand historical narratives and their legacy. Critically re-evaluating our relationship to land through the themes of past and present ownership, Laing’s photographs offer revisionary narratives.
Her 2003 series one dozen unnatural disasters in the Australian landscape, photographed around Balgo in the north-east of Western Australia – land belonging to the Wirrimanu Aboriginal community – directly speaks to these concerns. The conscious choice of location is crucial to the resolution of these works, as the site’s specific history as a Catholic Mission Station from 1933–75 provides an historical context for the exploration of time, transformation, narrative and legacy. Laing reconceives these histories within a contemporary framework.
The intersection between past and present is played out in Laing’s third day of a five day muster. The aerial ‘bird’s eye’ view functions as a paradoxical tool of both objective detachment and complete immersion in place. An introduced grazing species, the herded cattle appear as an ambiguous presence in the landscape. The livestock is an allegorical reference to the impact of imposed ownership and colonisation. third day of a five day muster is the companion image to one dozen unnatural disasters in the Australian landscape #2, which depicts a burning car stranded in an expanse of dry desert. This diptych establishes a critical dialogue that charts the effect of colonisation and habitation on the natural environment.
type C photograph
110.0 x 206.6 cm image; 124.0 x 220.6 cm sheet; 126.5 x 223.7 x 6.5 cm frame
Signature & date
Signed and dated l.r. verso sheet, pencil "Rosemary Laing ... 2003". Signed and dated l.l. verso frame, black ink "Rosemary Laing ... 2003"
Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program in memory of Henry E Boote 2015
Not on display
© Rosemary Laing
Referenced in 4 publications
Michele Helmrich, Prostrate your horses: weather and then some: Rosemary Laing at the University of Queensland Art Museum, Brisbane, 2009, 12.
Museum of Brisbane, Rosemary Laing: a survey 1995-2002, Sydney, 2003, 2.
Abigail Solomon-Godeau, Rosemary Laing, Sydney, 2012, 45.
Vivienne Webb and Abigail Solomon-Godeau, The unquiet landscapes of Rosemary Laing, Sydney, 2005, 58.