Michelle Mackie – Spring Collection 2020 @ Robertson Fine Art, Edinburgh – a stunning, sensual. dreamlike vision of womanhood
The title of this exhibition may imply that this is a fashion show with a cool, composed catwalk of this year’s stylish frocks and accessories as we Spring forward out of the winter.
As a fine art photographer, Michelle Mackie (also known as Dolly through her social media followers), presents a series of glamorous glossy fashion shots on location – but these painterly portraits reveal an underlying narrative, as she explains, “recreating forgotten joys, the magic of fairytales, memories, dreams in an art form that evokes powerful emotions”.
This is an astute observation of the social and cultural role of women, from feminine beauty to the fantasy and fear of sexual expression. A sense of freedom is depicted through the flight of birds and fluttering butterflies.
“Tis just like a summer bird-cage in a garden:
The birds that are without despair to get in,
And the birds that are within despair and are,
In a consumption of fear they shall never get out”
The traditional notion of housewives is of being kept inside, a domestic goddess like a bird in a cage. (Fascinating fact – girls as “birds” is not just modern slang – from 1300, the term “burde” referred to a young maiden).
In “Entrapment II” the partially nude model draped in a shimmering mauve chiffon sarong, wears the birdcage as a hat. It’s an ironic and ambiguous message – is she really trapped and can only fantasise about escape, to fly away like a butterfly.?
Other women are also seen in a controlled situation: “Pulled in All Directions” is dramatically explicit, the girl’s arms spread out like a crucifix and pegged on a washing line.
With filmic quality, it’s a disturbing image in terms of being unwillingly tied down, but it’s also a provocative pose akin to handcuffs, – think: bondage scenes from “50 Shades of Grey.”
“I wonder if one day that,
You’ll say that, you care
If you say you love me madly,
I’ll gladly, be there
Like a puppet on a string ..”
In her bare feet, Sandie Shaw danced across the stage to win Eurovision 1967 with this bouncy song. It comes to mind when viewing “Puppet II” (shown above in the poster) and “Puppet” (below), where a girl is joyfully hopping in the long grass, her hair blowing in the wind – like an angel searching for her wings.
This is a dazzling and dynamic exhibition of work by Michelle, a self taught photographer and digital artist. Focusing her eye through the lens of her camera, she has the unique vision of a film director and the razor-sharp imagination of a storyteller.
These “portraits” involve a time consuming, innovative, creative process. Finding the locations, selecting models, sourcing props and costumes, it’s like movie making, directing theatre or a ballet – the scene setting, lighting, characters, atmosphere and dramatic mood to imagine a surreal, fantasy world. Every element is photographed separately and digitally added, layer by layer, followed by meticulous enhancement of colour and texture, just like an artist with a paintbrush and oils.
“Shedding Masks” would make a most effective illustration for the Sunday Times “Style” magazine or Vogue.
The juxtaposition of the glamorous crimson ballgown against the bleak, winter landscape is a brilliant composition. But this is not just a fashion shot – who is this vulnerable girl, shivering in the cold, holding a mask to her face – several masks – which hide her true, emotional self.
There is a recurring theme Michelle calls Dark Beauty to show how women share experiences of betrayal or a sense of lurking danger, wandering alone in isolated places. “Red Light” is an amazing portrayal – a delicously decadent, light-hearted take on Little Red Riding Hood, fleeing from the prowling wolves in the forest.
“I’m forever daydreaming, and I get to create some of what goes on in my busy little head for all to see” Michelle Mackie
The narrative behind the art here could have been presented as a bold, brash rant on gender inequality, patriarchy, misogyny, #MeToo, et al.
Instead this is a literary, witty, intelligent and deeply personal, feminist-feminine view of women’s lives today and thin line between sexual objectification and the freedom of sexual empowerment.
Just like beauty, our concept of truth and meaning is in the eye of the beholder so do visit Roberston Fine Art soon (or check out the website) to view these and many more stunning, sensual and utterly unique artwork in the Spring Collection by Michelle Mackie.
Robertson Fine Art
100 Hanover St, Edinburgh EH2 1DR
Tel. 0131 285 0695