GX Gallery: Stephanie Mackenzie 'Psychedelic Soul' (until 27th March 2014)
The first part of the exhibition can be found on the ground floor, where a selected few of the artist's works are displayed, namely several pieces from her Utopia Land Series. This is where Mackenzie presents idealised female figures from history, or at least female protagonist characters with a smooth, classic appearance. From this she has customised them, replacing the delicate features of a period face with a distinctly contemporary one. This is an exciting addition to the painting, and certainly sets the foundations for the rest of the exhibition. I would like to know if the artist has used her own face in these works, as this specific series does seem to feature the same face. If this is the case, she is certainly declaring to the viewer that she is ready to make a lasting impression. Specifically to 'Madame Fourrure', with a literal translation of Fur Lady, the transitional capture of expression on the protagonist's face shows the distinction Mackenzie wishes to make between the state of the kept, ideal woman of a past patriarchy, as stoic, submissive perfection, and the twenty-first century woman. This is a concept that is established throughout the exhibition.
Personally, my favourite image of the entire exhibition is not an obvious choice; it is understated and to me it is an elegant piece with depth. Entitled 'Gate Keeper of Dreams vs Red', the digital manipulation shows a stone figure looking into the distance. The use of stone is a strong and traditional expression of stoicism or heroicism, but it seems that the message of the subordinated woman has resurfaced, if it momentarily left the frame. The addition of the pink lips onto a grey statue accentuates this idea, as does the positioning of the breasts in the centre of the image. As a woman of the twenty-first century, I highly appreciate the sleeve tattoo on the statue's right arm (left to viewer), showing the common design of the Japanese fish scene, as a representation of the growing levels of autonomy for women. Similarly to 'Mlle La Comtesse De Florence', certain aspects of the image have been composed using a greyscale sketch effect, showing the parallels between the classical era and the contemporary period we find ourselves in. Through the illumination qualities of the image, the viewer is led to focus on the supposedly huge leap that feminism has brought; but to what extent can we submit to this ideal?
If it is geographically impossible for you to reach the GX Gallery before Mackenzie's first ever solo exhibition in the UK closes on 27th March, click here to view all the pieces that the gallery are currently showcasing. I have only given a brief overview, so by following the link you will see that the artist's work is vibrant, contemporary and colourful - definitely worth a gander.