The nature of place, landscape and habitation, and the relationship between technology, time and speed, are central tenets of Rosemary Laing’s photographic practice. Since the 1980s Laing has searched for ways to represent these multifarious terms, often suspending contradictory elements – such as speed and stasis or nature and culture – in the one image in order to conceptualise nuances between physical and theoretical realms. Such awareness stems from her interest in the continuing impact of Australia’s colonial history, including the significance of the landscape tradition of art in this country. Photography is a challenging means of thinking through some of these social, cultural and visual issues because of its own history and relationship to ‘reality’. Yet as a still medium it enables Laing to paradoxically represent the graceful imperceptibility of flight, speed and motion, and to consider the effects of technology with nature.
Laing produces both large-scale, staged panoramic images and photographs in a more documentary style. ‘Greenwork’ is in the latter mode and marks an important stage in the development of her oeuvre. The series comprises two aspects: ‘greenwork’ of hyper-green digitally enhanced landscapes, and ‘greenwork TL’ (meaning time-lapse) of airport tarmacs and the trace of jet stream against vivid skies, images that delineate the ‘in-between’ spaces where flight and travel are performed. In ‘greenwork TL’ Laing negotiates the invisibility of motion. The landscape is ruptured by ‘fluid abstractions of flight’, as the artist calls them, where speed is unseen and an evaporating and evolving ‘residue’.1 Here, in the accumulation of tyre marks on the tarmac, the midair deposits of jet stream and the empty space of the airport, the dynamics of stasis and flux are revealed, figuring the landscape from both a real and metaphorical point of view.
1. Jonson A 1998, 'Rosemary Laing: stall fall', 'Art/Text', no 63, p 70. From Laing R 1995, 'A fluid rupture', unpublished paper
© Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007