A major new work by an Edinburgh College of Art alumna has been unveiled at the world’s most prestigious visual art festival.

Rachel Maclean’s film, Spite Your Face, has been revealed at the 57th International Art exhibition, the Venice Biennale

Commissioned by the Scotland + Venice partnership, it is presented as a large-scale portrait projection in the deconsecrated church, Chiesa di Santa Catertina. It will be on show until 26 November 2017.

Creative partnerships

The work has been curated by Alchemy Film and Arts in partnership with Talbot Rice Gallery and the University of Edinburgh.

Since 2003, Scotland has selected artists to represent its vibrant contemporary art scene at the Biennale through the Scotland + Venice partnership, run by Creative Scotland, the National Galleries of Scotland and the British Council Scotland.

Dark tale

The 37-minute film references the Italian folk tale The Adventures of Pinocchio and offers a critique of contemporary society.

Spite Your Face is set in two worlds: one a bright, glittery upper world of order, the other a warped, dirty and impoverished lower world.

Playing on a continuous loop with no discernible beginning or end, it follows the rise and fall of Pic, a young boy whose journey to maturity is accompanied by moral corruption and a rise to celebrity and power.

ECA graduate

Maclean graduated from Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) in 2009.

Since leaving, Maclean has enjoyed a successful career. Her work has twice been shortlisted for a Jarman Award, won the Margaret Tait Award in 2013, and attracted critical praise in last year’s British Art Show 8.

Talbot Rice

Talbot Rice Gallery will host the UK premiere of Spite Your Face in spring 2018.

The Gallery is also leading on Scotland + Venice’s Professional Development programme, which gives students the opportunity to work at the Biennale.

Five ECA students will join ten of their peers from five other Scottish art colleges to work on Spite Your Face for the duration of its run.

University at Venice

Edinburgh College of Art is represented elsewhere in the Venice Biennale 2017.

Tessa Giblin, director of Talbot Rice Gallery, is the Commissioner and Curator of Ireland at Venice, exhibiting the work of artist Jesse Jones.

ECA graduate Takahiro Iwasaki has been selected to represent Japan at the Biennale. Born in Hiroshima, Iwasaki studied an MFA in Edinburgh before graduating in 2005.

With this new film I set out to respond to significant changes in the political climate in the UK and abroad over the last 12 month – in particular the divisive campaigns in the lead up to the Brexit vote and the US presidential election. This new Scotland + Venice commission is a darkly comic moral tale, depicting a post-truth dystopia where the world is turned on its head, leaving the characters untethered to any sense of right or wrong, truth and lies.

Rachel Maclean


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