A Rachel Maclean exhibition of her sharply satirical take on national identity is opening at the National Gallery.
The display of film and photography called the Lion and the Unicorn ties in with anothe exhibition Landseer’s The Monarch of the Glen, which is also at the gallery.
‘While English artist Edwin Landseer created a romanticised view of the Scottish Highlands, Scottish artist Rachel Maclean uses nostalgic stereotypes to explore how we portray ourselves,’ says the gallery blurb.
Artist Rachel Maclean uses elaborate masks, grotesque prosthetics, and gaudy scenography.
Caustic and darkly comical films
Her caustic and darkly comical films explore both collective and individual identities. Her film Make Me Up is on iPlayer, with screenings coming up at the back end of the flick’s cinematic run in Exeter and Inverness.
Rachel Maclean: The Lion and The Unicorn features the artist’s 2012 film The Lion and The Unicorn, shines an irreverent light on Scottish-English relations. In it she looks more explicitly at the politics of Scottishness with respect to the Scottish independence referendum.
Grey areas between big binary ideas
In it she interested in not leaning one way or another, ‘but instead create a video that explored the grey areas between big binary ideas.’
She told Studio International in a fascinating interview: “I think that so much political debate in the UK takes the same form; where two people from opposing sides are brought together and argue with each other for a bit.
“I thought it would be interesting to set up a different kind of discussion, that is potentially self-defeating, both romantic and pragmatic, mysterious and rational, pulling back and forth between the historical and the contemporary, without turning into flat, one-sided propaganda.”
Using found audio, including excerpts from The Queen’s 1957 Christmas Broadcast, the Rachel presents national symbols in a setting of political conflict.
Exaggerated and dramatic narratives
The film is accompanied by a selection of related prints from 2013 showing elaborate, intricately staged scenes conveying exaggerated and dramatic narratives.
In her prints as well as ornate filmmaking, Rachel draws on an extensive repertory of art historical allusions, combining traditional iconography and references to pop culture to create cutting-edge satire.
Rachel Maclean: The Lion and The Unicorn is the artist’s first display of work at the National Gallery, although she has been at the National Gallery of Austrailia with Over the Rainbow. Check out her website for all her other exhibitions and work.
Rachel Maclean: The Lion and The Unicorn runs from 29 November 2018 – 3 February 2019. Admission free
top image: Rachel Maclean The Lion and The Unicorn, 2012 Digital Film Commissioned by Edinburgh Printmakers and funded by Creative Scotland. Courtesy of the Artist © Rachel Maclean