|Rosemary Laing’s weather photographs at UQ Art Museum
A remarkable photographic series, featuring in many of its images the figure of a woman tossed amid a cloud of detritus, will be given its first complete showing in Australia as part of a new exhibition at UQ.
prostrate your horses: weather and then some highlights the acclaimed work of Brisbane-born artist Rosemary Laing and opens at the UQ Art Museum on Saturday, September 26.
Laing’s evocative colour photographs have been exhibited extensively in the United States, Europe, Asia and Australia, with a major survey of her work held at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, in 2005.
“This exhibition is unique, in that it not only brings together Laing’s weather series for the first time in Australia, but also places it in context with a number of her thematically related works,” UQ Art Museum Director Nick Mitzevich said.
“These range from her most recent series a dozen useless actions for grieving blondes (2009) to her Natural Disasters series (1988), which was last exhibited in Brisbane 20 years ago.”
Laing’s arresting, panoramic photographs combine aspects of photography, performance and cinema, have often featured a performer, and are frequently located within the Australian landscape.
“With this exhibition, we wanted to explore the themes of natural and unnatural disasters that have underpinned a number of her works – and to see weather within this context,” exhibition curator Michele Helmrich said.
“The weather series, with its protagonist at the mercy of cyclonic forces and buffeted by a multitude of paper fragments, is at first glance suggestive of extreme weather events and the onset of climate change.
“But if you take into account the spray of paper fragments, then the storm that had overtones of Hurricane Katrina or Cyclone Larry becomes a more ambiguous metaphorical storm driven by contemporary political debates and issues; what we might describe as ‘cultural turbulence’.”
Other thought-provoking works include welcome to Australia (2004), which depicts the perimeter fence of the former Woomera Immigration Reception and Processing Centre, and images from the recently completed a dozen useless actions for grieving blondes series.
These feature close-shot female faces in the throes of melodramatic anguish, and were produced in response to Kevin Rudd’s apology to Australia’s Indigenous people in February last year.
A sense of disturbance is also at play in eerie scenes of windswept coastal melaleuca forest near Eden in New South Wales, a car wreck set alight beside a road in the Tanami Desert, an aerial shot of cattle being mustered in the Kimberley, while the interior of a fire-gutted shed at Sussex Inlet (NSW) offers evidence of a bushfire’s destructive force.
Ms Helmrich said the exhibition’s title referred to a quote by leading environmentalist Tim Flannery in his book The Explorers, when he refers to Charles Sturt’s fateful journey into the Simpson Desert.
Sturt reported that the intense heat “shrivelled his supplies, prostrated his horses and burst his thermometer”.
prostrate your horses: weather and then some is open free to the public until November 15.
The curator will give a guided tour of the exhibition at 2pm on September 26, prior to the official opening, with the artist also presenting a lecture at the Queensland College of Art at 1.30pm on September 23.
Works for the exhibition have been generously loaned by the National Gallery of Australia, Queensland Art Gallery, Art Gallery of South Australia and private collectors.
Media: Nick Mitzevich (0434 361 383, 07 3365 3046, firstname.lastname@example.org) or Cameron Pegg at UQ Communications (07 3365 2049, email@example.com)