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Wot u :-) about?

Rachel Maclean

29/10/2016 - 08/01/2017


Rachel Maclean: Wot u :-) about? Photo credit: Simon Liddiard

Rachel Maclean: Wot u :-) about? Photo credit: Simon Liddiard



Rachel Maclean

Wot u :-) about?

Home, Manchester


HOME is pleased to present Wot u :-) about?, a major solo exhibition of new work, curated by Bren O’Callaghan, Visual Art Programme Manager, HOME, and Sarah Perks, Artistic Director: Visual Art, HOME.

Maclean’s highly distinctive visual output uses the fairytale genre to examine the contentious boundary between child and adult, touching upon ideas of commodified happiness and the politics of fear, rendering dark and unsettling narratives in the supersaturated, candy-coloured aesthetic of children’s television. Centred on narratives established in three new video works, functioning as a series and featuring recurrent dialogue and motifs, Wot u :-) about? expands upon themes explored in Maclean’s previous works including Over The Rainbow (2013) and Feed Me (2015). Pushing an exploration of language, the artist uses English neologisms, text speak and market research copy and gobbledegook to establish an only just comprehensible, yet otherworldly communication system. Cyclical and repeated dialogue, constantly shifting meaning and context, leave narratives severed and unresolved, and the continuous moving of genres between fairytale, musical theatre, television and horror communicate a manic and darkly comic take on themes of consumption, ‘happiness marketing’ and childhood. Maclean uses computer technology and green-screen to generate locations, and borrows audio from television and cinema to construct narratives with comedic touch. Starring as children, adults and invented creatures, characters include a little girl, fairytale witch and grotesquely smiling bambi-eyed mascot, merging flesh and blood bodies with 2D cartoon figures, creating unsettling surface gloss avatars who adopt a schizophrenic range of voices and emotions.

Maclean commented: “I’m interested in experimenting with how these films will function within the gallery space as large-scale projections, at times syncing and seeming to communicate with one another, and at other times branching off and seeming to develop their own self-enclosed narrative.”

Alongside the video works, Wot u :-) about? will present an array of larger-than-life figurative sculptures inhabiting the space, directly relating to and overlapping with the props, costumes and aesthetic within the films. Resembling hybrids of bored commuters, cutesy kids’ TV monsters and sickeningly engorged, over-consumptive organs, the figures also function as inanimate viewers for a series of infographic videos, displaying spreadsheets, bar graphs and market research surveys to their unblinking users. Riffing upon the commodification of youth and the pap-rhetoric of happiness marketing, they take the form of part playground-equipment, part-Pietà-like statuary, that upon closer inspection are being eaten alive by swarms of razor-toothed dolls. Maclean’s sculptural installations represent a fresh approach for the artist as she steps through the looking glass, to club, capture and drag back large-scale physical artefacts from her subversive CGI vistas.

Bren O’Callaghan commented: “I took out an Own Art loan to buy one of Rachel’s prints from Edinburgh Printmakers a few years back and remember thinking I’d love to work with the artist in any capacity – her output is akin to a burst sewer pipe in a rainbow factory; horrifying, beautiful, a tongue-lolling double scream-and-gulp. To be co-curating this exhibition of all new work here at HOME is literally a dream come true – albeit one of those dreams where the last image beneath your eyelids is of a small child advancing with a concealed weapon.”

Sarah Perks commented: “Rachel Maclean is absolutely at the forefront of our main specialism of artist film, and one of the most exciting UK artists working in this field right now. However – like us – she can see far beyond the screen, incorporating sculpture and other formats in her work and totally having something to say about the state of the world we are in right now.”

Commissioning partners include Artpace, San Antonio and University of Salford Art Collection. Exhibition partner Golden Thread Gallery, Belfast.

Rachel Maclean (born 1987, Edinburgh, lives and works in Glasgow), graduated from Edinburgh College of Art in 2009 and has shown in exhibitions and film festivals across the UK and internationally. Largely working with green-screen digital video, over the last 5 years she has directed a series of short films in which she is the only actor, miming to recorded audio, using heavy make-up and elaborate costume. Recent exhibitions include: British Art Show 8, Leeds (2015), Ok, You’ve Had Your Fun, Casino Luxembourg (2015), Please, Sir…, Rowing, London, (2014); The Weepers, Comar, Tobermory, Mull, (2014); Happy & Glorious, CCA, Glasgow, (2014); Invites, Zabludowicz Collection, London, (2014); Quick Child, Run!, Trade Gallery, Nottingham, (2014); I HEART SCOTLAND, The Edinburgh Printmakers, (2013); Over The Rainbow, Collective Gallery, Edinburgh (2013); Lolcats, Generator Projects, Dundee (2012). Recent film festivals and screenings include: Moving Pictures, Touring programme curated by British Council and Film London, various international venues (2015-16); Lolcats, Impakt Festival, Utrecht, The Netherlands, (2014); A Whole New World, Berwick Film Festival, Berwick upon Tweed, England; A Whole New World premiere, Glasgow Film Festival (2014), Scotland; Over The Rainbow, Alchemy Film Festival, Hawick, Scotland (2013). Maclean was nominated for the Film London Jarman Award in 2013 and won Glasgow Film Festivals Margaret Tait Award in 2013. She has recently been artist in residence at Artpace, San Antonio, Texas and will represent Scotland at the Venice Biennale in 2017.