From the Hugh Lane Gallery Exhibition Archive 2018 #flashbackfriday returns to: Rachel Maclean: Just be yourself!
Scottish artist Rachel Maclean produces elaborate films and digital prints using costumes, exaggerate make-up, green screen visual effects and electronic soundtracks. Her artwork is both seductive and disturbing. All of the works in this exhibition were played by the artist, who transforms herself through extravagant costumes and make-up, these characters explore issues of identity, class, nationalism and gender, whilst referencing narrative structures from pop culture and fairy-tales. In 2018 the Hugh Lane Gallery held the first solo exhibition with Maclean in Ireland, entitled ‘Just be yourself!’
Exhibited over our first floor galleries the visitors were immersed into the oversaturated candy coloured strange worlds of Maclean. The video work ‘Spite Your Face’ (2017) was first exhibited at the Scottish Pavillion at the 57th Venice Bienalle in 2017. This was Maclean’s response to the Brexit vote and the US Presidential election using the Italian folk-tale ‘The Adventures of Pinocchio’ as a basis for the plot, it offered a powerful critique of contemporary society and its underlying fears and desire. Speaking about the work, Maclean notes “These events have been central in heralding a new post-truth era, where politicians feel free to say what they want to help them gain popular support, with little regard for factual accuracy.” The video is split into two worlds: the upper world inspired by the golden glittering Venetian interiors, rich merchants and order and the lower impoverished where the lure of wealth, power and adoration entices the destitute young boy in the film into the shimmering riches of the kingdom above.
’It’s What’s Inside That Counts’ (2016) parodies social media, advertising, children’s television programmes and fairy tales. The film borrows techniques global corporations use to sell well-being, youth and happiness by bombarding us with imagery and preying on our anxieties. The film was a critique on consumption in all its forms, focusing particularly on our dependence on technology. The third film was an earlier work entitled ‘Germs’ (2013) used carefully chosen language and aesthetics from advertising in a pastel toned world. In the short three minute video, a glamourous female protagonist seems to first advertise perfume but this then quickly flits between face masque, yoghurt and toilet cleaner.
‘Just be yourself!’ also included a selection of prints, including ‘We Want Data!’ (2016) a series of wall hangings that explored themes of data management and consumption. Grotesque cartoonish figures are seen to share and compete for attention, such as a cyber-angel with big blue plastic breasts, wired up to a “happiness” generating device, and taking a selfie; these works explore ideas of identity and stereotypes.
Maclean’s work is defined by a constant back and forth between the seductive and the unsettling, revealing behind her rainbow-coloured, fantastical fictions a much darker reality.
Rachel Maclean was born in Edinburgh in 1987. She lives and works in Glasgow. Over the last 10 years has shown widely in the UK and internationally. Maclean has been participating in international film festivals and screenings since 2011 and can be seen in numerous solo and group exhibitions worldwide. Her most recent shows include exhibitions at the National Gallery London (2018/19) and the Tel Aviv Museum of Art (2019/20). She also represented Scotland at the 57th Venice Biennale in 2017.