Tolarno Galleries presents Buddens, a new series of Rosemary Laing photographs.
A selection of the Buddens series was recently included in the first major presentation of Rosemary Laing’s work in Victoria, held at TarraWarra Museum over the summer. The exhibition comprised 28 large-scale works spanning a 30-year period, demonstrating Laing’s interest in how Australians have both perceived and moved through the landscape, shifting between the dramatic vistas of her body of works including groundspeed (2001), swanfires (2002-2004), weather (2006), The Paper (2013) and effort and rush (2013-2015).
A photo-based artist, Laing’s projects are physical interventions into landscape where she engages with the politics of place and contemporary culture, in resonant locations throughout Australia.
As Laing has noted: “The arrival of people, throughout history, shifts what happens in land, challenging those who have left their elsewhere, and disrupting the continuum of their destination place. A disruption causes a reconfiguration. It elaborates both the beforehand and the afterward.”
Buddens finds Rosemary Laing returning to Shoalhaven, New South Wales, the landscape of the iconic groundspeed series. Laing’s choice of location for Buddens is deeply felt. This is where she has worked regularly and it is a place of refuge. The familiarity is important as she considers her own relationship to place and the overlays of culture.
There are two parts, both shot in the same verdant area of Shoalhaven’s Wreck Bay, a site of as many maritime disasters as rescues over the last 200 years. One part of this series has the wooden skeleton of a roof truss half buried in a hillock adjacent to the river. The romantic notion of sanctuary in nature is exploded by a made structure which can shelter no one given it is unclad and the orientation not practical.
The other part replaces the river flow with that of used, red-toned clothes. Red is the colour of both fire and flesh, and Laing has used its tones regularly, signifying life as much as death. Hundreds of discarded yet still embodied items mimic the water that has bubbled up inland, depositing jumbles of debris on its banks when in flood. The purposeful nature of the water and the old clothes becomes a metaphor for any massed movement, the details of its passing and what is left behind.
Her choice of titles for Buddens ranges from the names of shipwrecked vessels (Rose of Australia, Walter Hood), to shipwreck stories and rescues by Aboriginal people (Wildflower), and the titles of still life paintings by artists Grace Cossington Smith and Margaret Preston (Drapery and wattle, Still life with teapot and daisies). These domestic natura morta reflect a continuance of western painting genres and traditions with a sub text of the mummifying of nature and sidestepping of world events. The Flowering of the Strange Orchid is also the title of a cautionary tale by HG Wells who considers the delicate balance between nature and culture required for survival.
Adapted from text written by Judy Annear, an independent writer and curator.