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Rachel Maclean (FP 2005) Takes Art World by Storm

Rachel Maclean (FP 2005) is one of Scotland’s most talked-about young artists, receiving attention and acclaim from all quarters over this past year for her compelling, eye-catching and provocative work.

She earned her BA in Drawing and Painting at Edinburgh College of Art, and is now based in Glasgow where she uses green-screen technology to produce digital videos. 'Spite Your Face' by Rachel MacleanHer films combine an eclectic and colourful mixture of references to popular culture, children’s television programmes, horror movies, British comedy, video games, reality TV and YouTube videos. The Tate Gallery writes that her ‘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.’

In recent months Rachel has represented Scotland at the 57th International Art Exhibition, the Venice Biennale, which opened on 13 May and runs until 26 November of this year. Her latest new film commission, ‘Spite Your Face’, has been running as a large-scale portrait projection at the altar of a deconsecrated church in Venice, the Chiesa di Santa Caterina. Rachel Maclean, photographed by Patrick RaffertyA 37-minute-long extravaganza, the film explores both contemporary and universal themes. Going back to its pre-Disney roots, the 'dark Venetian fairy tale' runs in a continuous loop in a space where the windows have been blacked out, light extinguished and the altar replaced with a huge vertical screen on which the video plays. ‘Entering is a moment of wonder,’ reads a review in The Skinny, ‘stepping into the darkness as the sound of one of Maclean's signature twisted musical soundtracks suffuses the space.’

More recently still, Rachel was one of three top Scottish artists commissioned to produce grand-scale murals of Billy Connolly in celebration of his 75th birthday. Each more than 16m high, the murals are now displayed in locations around Glasgow city centre. Rachel’s can be seen in Gallowgate. A BBC One Scotland programme, ‘Billy Connolly: Portrait of a Lifetime’, aired in June and featured highlights of the comedian’s career and clips of his conversations with the artists. He said that he was delighted with each of the works.

Rachel’s mural is a digital print of Billy Connolly in a specially-created outfit, replete with motifs from his career such as 'mini bike parked in bum' epaulettes, a sporran with an 'aged' nose sprouting hair and make-up reflecting his famous 'pale blue Scotsman' joke. Rachel commented that, ‘There is a kind of responsibility representing Billy because he is so well-known. He is this kind of national treasure within Scotland.’