Yet another invitation to an art show opening arrived in my inbox a few weeks ago and was interested to see one of my favorite artists, the incredibly successful Australian artist Rosemary Laing showcasing her new work “Buddens” at the Tolarno Gallery in Melbourne. I had visited Tolarno in 2014 and seen Rosemary’s work in Sydney the following year. When I was in the process of making my outcomes for my Masters show, she was an artist that really inspired me with her working process and themes which are fascinating. Laing is of course widely known for her leading role in the concept-based photography field.
Funnily enough, I first came across her work while watching an in-flight program onboard a flight about the history of Australian art. Thinking back, it was the “Brownwork” series (1996) that really hooked me. It’s a visual investigation into our physical relationship with speed and machine, and how we are affected by the sensation of movement, how movement is articulated and represented, and how we experience the landscape during the journey in the air. The images reflect on human participation in air travel and in one of these images, the simplicity of a game of catch foregrounds a Qantas 737 taking off in the background. The carefully composed image captures movement both in a ball (the game of catch) and a machine engaged in flight, with the arc of the ball mimicking the trajectory of the plane, and the red of the ball acting as a visual echo of the plane’s red tail while the game defies the complexity and energy involved with lifting a heavy aircraft off the ground.
Her “Greenwork” series is a continuation of the theme of flight movement and uses a photographic time lapse technique to show a very different representation of air travel by illustrating the actual movement of the aircraft and a depiction of the speed of the machine rather than the physical object itself.
In her work process she sometimes uses ‘storyboards’ to help plan her work and often enlists the help of producers, camera assistants, stunt people, and various technicians - it's complex. The process behind the finished work often follows a sequence of events like this:
- The finding of a suitable location with factors to consider including what the weather is like, the tracking of the sun, access to the area and gaining permission if it is private land. ‘Prelude’ images are sometimes taken during this initial journey.
- Developing ideas for what will happen in the selected location through drawing. This could be at the same time as the recce, the two processes are interlinked.
- The photo shoot. A team is assembled. The team could number anywhere from 2 to 10 people, depending on the requirements of the shoot like taking light readings, the cleaning and set up of the cameras, compass readings, camera settings for the right time of day. The “taking” of the photograph is likely to be quick, while the setup takes the most time.
- Then it’s back to the studio to select the images then print the proof sheets and test prints to make the final prints.
- Finally the curation of the images for exhibition which may need to be resized or reselected to suit the space and concept of the exhibition.
You really have to appreciate all the planning, thought and process that goes into Rosemary Laing’s work! I'll be sorry to be missing her "Buddens"show.