Rachel MacFarlane’s exhibition, Paradise, invites you to partake in the memory of a landscape, one that presents organic elements as matter of fact props on the stage of her subconscious. Her monumental works speak to many of the usual aspects of landscape painting: geography, history, mythology, escapism, and desire, however they deviate from tradition. Their jarring three dimensionality dares you to come closer, to breathe the air and feel the heat generated within the synthetic environments.
Though these landscapes seem alien, there is enough that is familiar to suggest you could seek out these places. You feel you could find that weed, the one represented in the electric garden of greens and reds, of aggressive contours. You may come across it in the real world. Photograph it with your phone. Add your own filter, and thus return it full circle to the realm of unnatural light.
This awareness of temperature, concreteness, and depth points to a fully realised logic that betrays a different approach to landscape than that of an Albert Bierstadt or Mark Tansey. It comes out of MacFarlane’s construction of miniature paper maquettes, dozens of which hang on her studio wall. They feel themselves nomadic—pocket size—while the large paintings that they inspire force the viewer to become a wanderer.
It is from this position that one experiences a compression of moments, the depicted pieces of paper from the models reflecting kaleidoscopically the paintings’ varied points of origin. Enveloped in a strange light, these scenes painted under MacFarlane’s masterful hand create bizarre edens, ones that are both seductive and menacing. The splendiferous synthetic quality of the artist’s version of nature flirts with the anxiety that comes with getting too close to paradise
Originally intended as a response to the dioramic features of Super Dutchess, MacFarlane created the site-specific painting, Sliver, through her established practice of meticulously observing multi-faceted maquettes. After news broke of the COVID pandemic, she was asked to rethink the possibilities of its display. Teaming up with Super Dutchess, a collaborative venture was born to counter the idleness and immobility of our current situation. A new maquette was constructed with the intention of virtually housing the entirety of the gallery space with Sliver inside. Each component of the original maquette was dissected, flattened, scanned, then imported into a digital replica.
This new translation results in the first ever animation of MacFarlane’s work, Beacon, injecting her profoundly tangible landscapes into a malleable digital space where all physics and light become reinvented. Though this newfound animation expands on the dimensions of her original diorama it, in part, further estranges its origin as landscape painting. MacFarlane’s 5’x6’ painting—displayed true to its originally intended presentation—hangs in a miniaturized gallery space at the base of a paper canyon where colour and light reverberate dynamically. A surreal scene is showcased—a window into an alternate ecology composed of a different temperature, turbidity and time.