Rosemary Laing

scrub #4, 2003
Type C photograph, number 3 from an edition of 12
75.0 x 127.5 cm
signed, dated and numbered (on the reverse)


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The artist
Corporate collection, Sydney

'The Unquiet Landscapes of Rosemary Laing', Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, 23 March - 5 June 2005 (this work was included)

'The Unquiet Landscapes of Rosemary Laing', Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, exhibition catalogue, illus. p.19

'scrub #4' is part of Rosemary Laing's acclaimed series "one dozen unnatural disasters in the Australian landscape", which was staged and shot in the Wirrimanu Aboriginal community's lands around Balgo in the north-east of Western Australia. The work is a stunning example of Laing's signature artistic approach, which involves the staging of elaborate physical interventions and installations within the landscape. Here, various forms of mass-produced modernist furniture have been encrusted in the red soil of the land, taking on the identity and skin of the desert. The generic IKEA-style furniture is poignantly arranged in relation to the landscape as though camouflaged and seeking integration amongst the spinifex mounds. This carefully staged tableaux references the challenges of non-indigenous Australians to relate to a place fraught with colonial histories of dispossession.

  • scrub #4

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.