Five minutes on Rachel MacLean

Tate curator Elsa Coustou gives us the low down on Rachel Maclean’s world of sugar-coated nightmares, currently showing in Art Now at Tate Britain

Rachel Maclean, It’s What’s Inside That Counts, 2016

Rachel Maclean, It’s What’s Inside That Counts 2016, film still. Courtesy of Rachel Maclean © Rachel Maclean

Tell us a bit about Rachel Maclean…

Rachel Maclean is an emerging Scottish artist born in 1987 and based in Glasgow, who works predominantly with digital videos. Maclean started experimenting with green-screen technology, which now characterises her practice, while she was studying her BA in Drawing and Painting at Edinburgh College of art (2009). Her films combine a variety of references to popular culture, and of genres such as children’s television programmes, horror movies, British comedy, video games, reality TV and YouTube videos. Maclean’s work is defined by a constant back and forth between the seductive and the unsettling, revealing behind her candy-coloured, fantastical fictions a much darker reality.

Rachel Maclean, a short edit from Over the Rainbow 2013. Courtesy Rachel Maclean © Rachel Maclean

How are her films made?

Maclean uses green-screen technology and digital editing programmes to make her films, in which she performs all the characters herself. Prosthetic make-up and elaborate costumes offer her a rich palette of roles to play and identities to explore. Her characters are often taken from Walt Disney animations and fairy tales, or inspired by commercial advertising and mass media.

After having filmed each character against a green backdrop, she then uses Photoshop and After Effects to cut them out and place them within various imagined backgrounds that she creates digitally. This collage technique has informed Maclean’s approach to filmmaking since her early films, which were all made from collaged found audio sources ranging from Britain’s Got Talent, The Jeremy Kyle Show, a speech by David Cameron to dialogues from the 1959 film ‘House on Haunted Hill’ or the 1939 ‘Wizard of Oz’. Since 2015 she began working from scripts written by herself, and with a larger team of voice actors, music composers, costume, make-up and prop designers.

Rachel Maclean, The Lion and The Unicorn, 2012

Rachel Maclean, The Lion and The Unicorn, 2012
Courtesy of the artist

Why is her work significant now?

Maclean’s work presents a critical and satirical view of the excesses of consumerism within Western capitalist society. Her films stage grotesque and stereotypical characters who live in a dystopian near-future dominated by global corporations. An example of this is the recurring presence of technology within her films and prints, which is a nod to our current reliance on smart phones and social media. In her recent work she also examines the production and commercialisation of happiness and wellbeing, seen in her use of emoji’s and the ‘Wake Up’ Coffee chain which appears in her We Want Data 2016 series.

Where can people see her work?

WOT U :-) ABOUT? is a free exhibition at Tate Britain running until the 2nd of April 2017. Maclean’s work can also be seen at HOME, Manchester until the 8th of January 2017, and in the British Art Show 8 at the Southampton City Art Gallery until the 15th of January 2017. She will represent Scotland in the forthcoming Venice Biennale, from the 13th of May to the 26th of November 2017.

Rachel Maclean, It’s What’s Inside That Counts 2016 Courtesy of Rachel Maclean © Rachel Maclean

Rachel Maclean, It’s What’s Inside That Counts 2016, film still. Courtesy of Rachel Maclean © Rachel Maclean

Visit WOT U :-) ABOUT? for free at Tate Britain until the 2nd of April 2017.

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