Rosemary Laing

third day of a five day muster, 2003
Type C photograph, number 2 from an edition of 12
59.5 x 112.0 cm
signed, dated and numbered (on the reverse)


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The artist
Corporate collection, Sydney

another version 'The Unquiet Landscapes of Rosemary Laing', Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, 23 March - 5 June 2005

'The Unquiet Landscapes of Rosemary Laing', Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, exhibition catalogue, illus. p.58

'third day of a five day muster (small)', 2003 is a significant prelude image to Rosemary Laing's acclaimed photographic series "one dozen unnatural disasters in the Australian landscape". This photograph is intimate in scale and yet epic in its dramatic content. The aerial shot reveals a cattle muster sweeping across the land. This bird's eye view of the animals churning up the dust refers directly to the marking of the country, creating a critical commentary on the invasive activity of colonisation. Staged and shot in the Wirrimanu Aboriginal community's lands around Balgo in the north-east of Western Australia, this image alludes to the fraught relationships of non-indigenous Australians to the land.

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. Shot from a helicopter and 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".

  • third day of a five day muster

Image courtesy of the artist

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.