Glasgow-based artist Rachel Maclean’s style has become instantly recognisable. Her sickly-sweet, candy bright imagery is often the invitation to discuss far darker themes. As is the case with her new exhibition and permanent installation at Jupiter Artland. From the 8th May onwards, visitors will be able to go and visit a new piece of art in the beautiful grounds of Jupiter Artland, ‘Upside Down Mimi’ combines Maclean’s video work with her first foray into large-scale sculpture (arguably architecture.)
The new work itself takes the form of a seemingly derelict, lonesome shopfront enshrouded by woodlands. The walk up to the piece is as much part of the work as the object itself, following heart-shaped, breadcrumb-like paving slabs you are led down a winding path to be greeted by the dilapidated façade of Mimi’s upside-down store. Bright blues, yellows and pinks make up the storefront, with plastic signage and emoji dotted around. There are graffiti and grime all over the small building, the intricate attention to detail of the artist to age this building rapidly but authentically is impressive. Rich, clever attention to detail is a hallmark of Maclean’s work to date, with every element being considered. Entering the shop front via the front door, despite a sign reading ‘closed’, you are met by an absurd and surreal upside-down space with a chandelier erupting from the floor and ‘Mimi’ doll merchandise lining the walls. The room darkens and the artwork begins to play on a large screen.
Taking the form of an animation (a new medium for Maclean), the video immediately sets the tone with a high pitched ‘Mimi’ doll introducing herself and discussing the issues she has around her own body dysmorphia and self-esteem. Straight away you understand all is not as it seems. When you enter the wood to find the path to this work there is a ‘friendly trigger warning’ explaining there will be references to topics such as self-harm, drugs, and mental health. For anyone who is familiar with Maclean’s work, this dark undertone will not be unexpected.
What follows in the video is an incredibly contemporary and poignant discussion to what many young people are dealing with today – the pandemic has wreaked havoc for many of them, disrupting their education and robbing them of many freedoms, the impact of which will be seen for a long time. The artwork was created in dialogue with teenagers across Scotland, something that explains the very real and familiar themes in the work. The rise of online culture, digital media and the continuing decline of real-world spaces and engagement on our high streets is a deeper factor behind the work. If you expect to find answers, you will leave disappointed, for this is not the intention. The artwork succeeds in representing and opening a dialogue for and with young people and the issues they are facing.
Alongside this new artwork and installation, four seminal works made during the last decade are also being shown as part of her exhibition. Spite Your Face, Maclean’s Venice Biennale commission, and The Lion and the Unicorn, a comical look at the crisis of the Union and Scottish independence can be viewed in one part of the grounds. Germs and Eyes To Me, two shorter works, are being shown in the exhibition rooms by the Café. It is a brilliant overview and celebration of Maclean’s accomplishments, and one that succeeds in prising open those uncomfortable truths that we as a society try all too hard to sweep under the carpet.
Rather brilliantly, Jupiter Artland is having a series of talks over the summer exhibition period that aim to help parents and those unfamiliar with the issues facing young people today in understanding and navigating these difficult waters. Something helped by the fact the head of learning at Jupiter Artland is the same person as Head of Exhibitions – a fantastic thing to see.
With thanks to Leo Sartain for this review and images.