Artist Lucy McKenzie is artist, set-designer and actress in Lucile Desamory’s film ABRACADABRA, premièring at Tate Modern on 29 June

Lucile Desamory, ABRACADABRA 2013, film still

Lucile Desamory, ABRACADABRA 2013, film still

Courtesy the filmmaker

If you visited the recent exhibition A Bigger Splash: Painting after Performance at Tate Modern, you may have been struck by the surreal floating paintings of interior décor in the final room. This series of trompe l’œil paintings were by the Scottish artist Lucy McKenzie and originally inspired by the Muriel Spark novel, The Girls of Slender Means 1963. However, they were also used as a set for a film by Lucile Desamory called ABRACADABRA 2013 in which McKenzie also stars, and which will have its UK premiere at Tate Modern on Saturday 29 June.

Lucy McKenzie May of Teck 2010 © Lucy McKenzie, courtesy Galerie Buchholz

Installation view of Lucy McKenzie May of Teck 2010
© Lucy McKenzie, courtesy Galerie Buchholz, in A Bigger Splash: Painting After Performance exhibition at Tate Modern 14 November 2012 – 1 April 2013

ABRACADABRA centres on a reporter named Damien who, after winning a scrabble game, is visited by a ghost who he follows through Brussels to the locked gates of a big building. Damien returns the next day and is invited inside where he meets the inhabitants: three mysterious women, who appear to have formed something between a Christian commune and a secret society. They invite him in for supper and soon he finds himself drawn into the symbolic qualities of the building, only to find he may never escape. 

The film is inspired in part, by the short story The Open Window 1911, by British writer Hector Hugh Munro a.k.a. Saki (1870–1916), where a fifteen year old girl frightens a nervous male visitor with a fabricated story based around the feature of an open French window that looks onto a lawn. This interest in reinterpreting the everyday, or the uncanny, is played out in ABRACADABRA and heightened by the series of trompe l’œil paintings by McKenzie, who also plays the ghost in the film.

In a TateShots film with the artist, McKenzie explains of her trompe l’oeil paintings-turned-sets: ‘To make paintings knowing they would be used as a décor is just a new and expansive way to think about painting.’

To find out more about the artist, the film and its director, come along to the screening which will be followed by a discussion between the director, Lucile Desamory, McKenzie and Tate curators Catherine Wood (Contemporary Art and Performance) and Stuart Comer (Film).