Rosemary Laing

after Heysen, 2004 from the series 'to walk on a sea of salt'
Type C photograph, 1 from an edition of 7
110.0 x 252.0 cm
signed and inscribed 'Rosemary Laing/After Heysen/1/7 large 2004' (on the reverse and as noted by vendor but not seen)


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Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne
Acquired from the above by Dr Colin & Elizabeth Laverty in March 2005

The unquiet landscapes of Rosemary Laing, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, 25 March-5 June 2005; Kunsthallen Brandts, Odense, Denmark, 19 May-3 September 2006 (this ed.)
Rosemary Laing: to walk on a sea of salt, Contemporary Art Centre of South Australia, Adelaide, 27 February-6 April 2008 (this ed.)

V Webb, The unquiet landscapes of Rosemary Laing, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, 2005, exh. cat., illus. p. 67 & p. 73
A. Solomon-Godeau, Rosemary Laing, Piper Press, Sydney, 2012, illus. p. 137
B French & D Palmer, Twelve Australian Photo Artists, Piper Press, Sydney, 2009, illus. p. 103

after Heysen is an image derived – in title and in composition – from Summer, 1909, a watercolour by German-Australian artist Sir Hans Heysen that won the 1909 Wynne Prize. The aged, imposing gum tree on the right, naturally stripped of some of its bark, leads the eye across a desiccated riverbed into the heat-scorched bush. Unusually for Laing, the work does not include any overt signs of human activity. The implication, perhaps, is that – much like Heysen or any traditional landscape painting – the very role of the artist as an observer and chronicler of nature is itself an act of intervention wherein the ephemeral quality of nature, light and time can all be distilled into a fixed image.

  • after Heysen

Image courtesy of the artist and Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne

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.