Tate Britain Exhibition

Art Now: Lucy McKenzie

Lucy McKenzie and Paulina Olowska, Oblique Composition 2003

Lucy McKenzie and Paulina Olowska, Oblique Composition 2003

Lucy McKenzie lives and works in Glasgow, and the diversity of its creative networks is reflected in her artistic activities. In a recent article about the Scottish art scene the writer Michael Bracewell described an ‘ambient artistic practice ... art which occurs across all manner of pervasive media, proceeding in its own way at its own pace’ and he clearly had McKenzie in mind. She creates, curates and collaborates, and skillfully mixes high art and history with pop culture, creating a unique discourse between past and present.

When making work, McKenzie often questions the role of the artist, the nature of artistic production and the value systems that support it. She frequently fixes on the artist as the subject, whether depicted or imagined, and focuses on the actual process of making art. In this project for Tate Britain McKenzie presents Oblique Composition, a film made from the edited footage of a live performance in which she participated with the Polish artist Paulina Olowska – a regular collaborative partner. In the performance (called Hold the Colour and staged earlier this year at Cabinet Gallery in London), McKenzie and Olowska adopted the caricatured roles of ‘working women’ – artist and architect – weaving a loose narrative that explored the idea of art-making, its process and perception. In front of an invited audience and against a minimal but highly formal set, each woman appeared separately, although their physical similarities implied they were mirror images of one another. When they did appear together, McKenzie began to sketch Olowska’s portrait. The surrounding audience could watch McKenzie, noting her ability to translate what was in front of her into a work of art. Art’s transformation of reality was a central theme in the performance. This idea is now given more significance by the fact the performance has become an edited, projected film. The accompanying soundtrack – melancholic piano music – adds another layer and reinforces the sense of artifice.

Alongside this film and against the backdrop of the evocative piano sounds, McKenzie has brought together prints and drawings that refer toart, architecture and other disciplines, all of which characterise the artist as a kind of ‘cultural worker’. McKenzie’s handmade silkscreen year-planner for 2004 brings the idea centre stage. She wishes to examine the current value and status of socially-engaged art, focusing more specifically on how this relates to charity and patronage, not just in Britain but in other capitalist countries. McKenzie intends to donate her share of any subsequent sales from this project to the charity, La Strada.


Born in Glasgow, 1977

She studied at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design (BA Hons Fine Art) from 1995-99, Dundee and at Karlsruhe Kunst Akademie, Germany. McKenzie’s recent solo exhibitions include If It Moves, Kiss It at Galerie Christian Nagel, Berlin (2002) and Brian Eno at NAK Aachen (2003). She is also participating in the 2003 Venice Biennale. This Art Now project is her first solo presentation in London in over two years.

Tate Britain

London SW1P 4RG
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20 September – 9 November 2003

Supported by

Patrons of New Art

Patrons of New Art