A display from one of the most sharply satirical artists in Britain currently on show at the National Gallery
A display of film and photographs by artist Rachel Maclean opens at the National Gallery where her themes of national identity will relate to the exhibition Landseer’s The Monarch of the Glen. 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.
Maclean is one of the most sharply satirical artists in Britain today. Using elaborate masks, grotesque prosthetics, and gaudy scenography, her caustic and darkly comical films explore both collective and individual identities.
Rachel Maclean: The Lion and The Unicorn features the artist’s 2012 film The Lion and The Unicorn, which shines an irreverent light on Scottish-English relations. Commissioned by Edinburgh Printmakers in the lead-up to the 2014 referendum on Scottish independence, Maclean’s film shows the heraldic attendants of the Royal Coat of Arms, the English lion, and the Scottish unicorn, squabbling over the future of the United Kingdom. Using found audio, including excerpts from The Queen’s 1957 Christmas Broadcast, the artist presents national symbols in a setting of political conflict.
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, Maclean draws on an extensive repertory of art historical allusions, combining traditional iconography and references to pop culture to create cutting-edge satire.
Daniel Herrmann, Curator of Special Projects at the National Gallery, and curator of Rachel Maclean: The Lion and the Unicorn, says: “When the National Gallery opened, two days a week were dedicated to practising artists. Ever since, the Gallery has been at the heart of a thriving community of visitors, critics, and artists – a gallery full of discussion and debate. We are thrilled to continue this tradition with a new Modern and Contemporary Programme. Rachel Maclean is one of Scotland’s most astute artists today, combining an unflinching sense of satire with talent and skill. We are excited to present Rachel Maclean’s works to our contemporary audiences and to show our historic collection and exhibitions in dialogue with artists of today.”
Rachel Maclean, The Lion and the Unicorn is on display until 03 February 2019 at the National Gallery. Admission Free. Find out more here.