Sunday, 14 January 2018

Jacqueline Donachie - Right here among them at The Fruitmarket Gallery

I fondly remember the artist talk that Jackie Donachie delivered to the Environmental Art students at Glasgow School of Art. I was in the second year of my undergraduate degree, and was really taken by the social aspect of Jackie's work and the way in which she goes about making work.

I specifically recall her telling us about how she struggled to make work immediately after graduating. She explained that after going to Art School, she needed to earn some money and so worked in a bar. It was while working at the bar that she created Advice Bar (1995), "a makeshift bar manned by the artist, who gave out drinks in exchange for problems, for which she would offer advice." It has since existed in many versions. For the Fruitmarket exhibition the gallery has been developed into Advice Bar (Expanded for the Times) (2017), a long concrete bar which cuts intrusively through the lower gallery. I enjoy the way that Donachie adapts the work according to the context. It seems particularly relevant that we have an opportunity and space to discuss problems given the current political and social state of the world. 

Also in the downstairs gallery, Temple of Jackie (2011), is another work that I was familiar with in a previous iteration. The adapted camping trailer was used to serve soup and drinks at the opening of the Glasgow Sculpture Studios when they relocated to Kelvinhaugh Street. I was working at Glasgow Sculpture Studios at the time, and so was involved in the set-up of this installation. The trailer has also been used "to screen films, as a DJ booth (as here), as part of the impromptu, socially engaged part of her practice. The Temple will be used for several events throughout the course of the exhibition."

Upstairs, the work took a slightly different slant. Through my knowledge of Donachie's work, I was aware that she has being investigating myotonic dystrophy, an inherited muscular degenerative disorder that affects several members of Donachie’s family, but not the artist herself. "In the video, Pose Work for Sisters (2016), shown upstairs, Donachie and her sister, Susan, pose before the camera in homage to Bruce McLean’s Pose Work for Plinths (1971). The sisters interact with the props in different ways, striking complementary poses that require various amounts of flexibility, balance and strength. Though the family resemblance can be seen, a disparity in the physical capabilities of the women becomes apparent."

The monitor showing Pose Work for Sisters (2016) is placed upon In the End Times (2017), a steel ramped platform that has been powder-coated dark grey. This non-slip surface is often used for stairs, walkways and ramps, and for the floors of trucks, trailers and ferries.

In the End Times (2017) has the appearance of an item of 'urban furniture', as do other works such as Walk With Me (2017), a green line of aluminium tubing that cuts through the gallery and acts as a drawing in space. 

The large drawings of lampposts and CCTV cameras on poles belong to Glimmer (2013–), an ongoing series. In the context of the other work, I became aware of the fragility of the structures, how they lean and can take on quite human-like stances.


It was fascinating to see such a range of new and old work made by Donachie. I enjoyed the more sculptural, material-focused aspects of her work alongside the more socially engaged event-based part of her practice. At the root of all the work there is an underlying interest in how individuals exist in the world, things that unite us, and things that distance us from others. There is a sense of trying to find a way of existing within society.

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