Signing the Times.
Beatrice Colin meets artist Tracy Mackenna to talk about her ﬁrst major show.
Glasgow is to the art world what Manchester is to the music scene. The 80s produced the Glasgow Boys with their narrative, ﬁgurative painting and once again the spotlight is swivelling north. A younger generation of artists with a more immediate approach are now being acclaimed. Douglas Gordon, Tracy Mackenna. Julie Roberts. Christine Borland and Roddy Buchanan are part of a loose movement of artists whose work is a direct reaction, rather than a contemplative response, to the times.
Tracy Mackenna‘s installations at the Centre for Contemporary Arts tackle the vulnerability and insecurity of living in an era where world-shattering events hurtle past with ever-increasing speed. it‘s a work which juxtaposes the domesticity of a lino ﬁoor inlaid with her own text in one gallery, with a number of huge glass panels sandblasted with maps of cities in the other. ‘The broader issue that l’m talking about,‘ says Mackenna. ‘is the whole issue of orientation, of placing yourself as an individual now, absolutely now, in huge structures that are incredibly confusing. it‘s about being alive in this time.‘
Mackenna spent two years in Hungary after she left Glasgow School of An in l987. She travelled widely in Eastern European countries and found the way they used their historical context to position themselves in the present was lacking in her own experience.
in response. she attempted to record the passing of time in writing and in line drawing. The text used in
‘The broader issue that I’m talking about is the whole issue of orientation, of placing yourself as an individual now, absolutely now in huge structures that are incredibly confusing.’
her show evolved from this process. ‘l‘ve found that this way of recording states of being. describing a space, the way that dust accumulates, imperfections in the plaster, or a pin stuck in the wall, very intimate things. reﬂect the obsessiveness and the repetitive nature of our lives. No actual object is described but there is this idea that there is a constant evolution of
something happening around us all the time.‘
Rather than using text on the wall, as conceptual artists of the past have done, the language in the lino instantly engages the viewer. Beautifully executed, the floor of the gallery has both the impermanence of a material which will be recycled at the end of the show and a sense of familiarity underfoot. Personal, rather than precious, the work is a map of her psyche. a response to the transient state of existence.
A red line, like a vein, links the two galleries but the larger space is as intimidating as the other is intimate. Eight large panes show Bucharest, Berlin, Bratislava, Brussels and Baghdad inner city plans and twelve smaller glass maps of detailing cities lean against the walls.
‘The cities are all places l‘ve been, except Baghdad. Brussels has obvious connotations in terms of its strength and power, and Baghdad is like a ﬁxing point for everything that‘s been going on at the moment. it really deﬁnes a lot of what’s happening in Europe. Also when they‘re reduced to equal images on glass. you can tell something about the structure of the city, just through the graphic image that it gives.‘
Like the other space, the installation immediately involves the viewer. ‘Hopefully when you stand in front of the glass, you will become a more vulnerable object even though you are standing in front of something which is very ﬁxed and rigid, a city. But i don‘t really believe that it is any more ﬁxed than we are. Cities are constantly evolving. re-afﬁrming things.‘ To further stress the point, a dozen small canvases depicting half leaf, half map-like images; organic countries, hang in contrast to the sand- blasted glass.
The constantly shifting boundaries of our relationships with ourselves and with the world and the alienation inherent in even the most intimate situations are themes which Mackenna addresses. ‘Things are at a crisis level at certain points in the world and i want to use that and bring that into my work. Not, however, in a sledgehammer fashion, but by using structures that we all understand.‘
Tracy Mackenna is at the C CA Sauchiehall Street 27 March-24 April.
:— Novel Views
George Perec’s 1962 novel ‘Things: A Story of the Sixties’ is about a young couple ‘who wanted iiie’s enjoyment, but all around them enjoyment was equated with ownership’. If the work of four Scottish art students inspired by Perec Is anything to go by, then the problems of living In a society where aspiration is associated with possession, and freedom with purchasing power, are as strongly felt in 1993 as they ever were.
Kate Prame’s untitled painting is a gut reaction to the im of control described in the novel. it is a chaotic image in which puppet-like personalities are lost in their surroundings. in Alex Botterell and Stuart Oargiii’s collaborative piece,
Elliptical Amalgam, the young couple are painted thinly on a sheet of glass which hangs over a compartmentalized container oi all sorts of bric-a-brac, from broken china to clippings from ilouse And Garden. The possessions to which the
insubstantial as ghosts. These ghostly presences
coupieaspire have personality and solidity, while the couple are as
dream-like juxtaposition with a strange collection oi clutter in Andrew Cranston’s painting, Prison oi Plenty.
it also contains the disturbing image oi a maze, made oi a jigsaw puts, a ‘double puzzle’ which reflects both the fragmentary and labyrinthine structure of Perec’s writing and its pervading sense of enclosure and futility.
Alan Conner’s installation is a large square wall made up of ill-fitting parts that block the view from the window. But intense light shines through a missing element in the structure; it is obviously not as substantial as it seems. This last piece reflects the abstract and formal dexterity of Perec’s writing. It also points to a personality that is as mysterious and difficult to pin down as the reason why Things and these works based on it are so ambiguous and fascinating. (Anne iiamlynj Project Perec is at the French institute, Randolph Crescent, Edinburgh until 9 April.
The List 26 March—8 April l993 51