Right Here Among Them – Jacqueline Donachie

Right Here Among Them is Glaswegian artist Jacqueline Donachie’s ambitious mid-career exhibition at The Fruitmarket Gallery. The exhibition encompasses pieces from across Donachie’s career in several mediums, including sculpture, print, sound and video. It explores the artist’s fascination with objects and spaces and the ways in which we interact with them. Right Here Among Them is extremely impressive in both scope and scale, spreading over both floor of the gallery.

The main room of the ground floor is dominated by an installation and a sculpture, ‘Temple of Jackie’ and ‘Advice Bar’, respectively. Both pieces explore social spaces and the relationships that they have with people.

‘Temple of Jackie’ is a black trailer tent adapted into a portable disco booth. Its orange-lit interior and imposing shape give it a surreal, fairy-tale feel. The booth is set up for a party with DJ equipment, speakers and a turning disco ball, but eerily there is no music or people. The piece is intimate, both in its name and what it is depicting. A DJ booth is usually sacrosanct, at once somewhere that is both the epicentre of a social event but also a place that most people are barred from entering. Here Donachie inverts this convention; we are invited, perversely, to peer in to this space and look at all of its secret recesses within but at the same time it has been stripped of what gives it its significance in the first place. This question of whether an object or space is still itself when denuded of its defining characteristics is at the centre of much of the exhibition.

‘Advice Bar’ continues the exploration of this theme.  Donachie ran the ‘Advice Bar’ in 1995 as a young artist. For this exhibition she has updated this performance, asking the youth group Fresh Fruit to dispense drinks and advice between 1-3pm on Friday’s and Saturday’s. Though the eye is first drawn to the bar itself, a large slab of concrete which takes up most of the room and continues through to the next, the piece is actually made up of four parts. ‘Bar’, an eponymous digital print hangs behind the sculpture, the performance piece, and lastly ‘Rules for an Advice Bar’, another print which acts as a map-cum-instruction manual. Juxtapositions again are at the heart of this piece. Dispensing advice and interacting with people is an inherently vulnerable and intimate act, yet ‘Advice Bar’ stands as a chest-high minimalist concrete edifice, seemingly putting as much space between the advisor and the advisee as possible. ‘Rules for an Advice Bar’ states that no money changes hands, reminding us that words and advice exchanged here are ephemeral, whereas the space itself remains whether or not it is in use.

In the second room are five small intermedia pieces from earlier shows in Donachie’s career. Three are preparatory pieces for ‘Speedwork’ and ‘Weight’. The last two, ‘VO2 Max’, depict abstract objects in pen and spray paint. Whilst they provide some sense of history and background to Donachie’s work, they struggle to stand up to the more imposing works they share a space with and feel a little out of place.

Upstairs is a complete change in terms of colour and light. Sculpture ‘Walk With Me’ stretches across the room in a vivid shade of green, ‘An Era of Small Pleasures’ and ‘Between One Thing and Another’ are delights of texture and shape, inviting the viewer to interact with them. The space and light is used to great effect, and the sculptures have a kind of self-evidentness which communicates what they are very well.

Right Here Among Them is an incredibly rich, varied and thought-provoking exhibition with real depth, worth devoting several hours to.

Fruitmarket Gallery 

Until 11 February 2018 

Photo Credit: The Fruitmarket Gallery 

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