Euan Macdonald

Galerie Zink München

In a relatively small space, the Scottish-born, Los Angeles–based artist Euan Macdonald presented a few recent works, all involving a certain perceptual and conceptual subtlety. The most intriguing among them was the DVD Healer, 2002, projected on the wall and shown in a darkened room provided with seats, like a small movie theater. The performance it depicted began with a view of an orange curtain, from the other side of which an elderly middle-class woman—the artist’s landlady during a residency in New Zealand—appeared before an invisible public, her arms sometimes at her side and sometimes folded, but otherwise standing still and in silence for four minutes, at which point she turned around and went back behind the curtain from whence she came. This humble figure’s fixity and silence charge her with a somewhat disturbing intensity, reinforced when one takes into account what is implied by the title: This woman claims to restore health to the sick through the laying on of hands, or in any case by emitting psychic energy. The information that the title provides establishes much of the work’s meaning, since we immediately see the woman through other eyes, as a miracle worker. The artist limits himself to setting forth the conditions for this attribution of meaning, intervening with the components that codify the work as such.

Macdonald’s drawings on simple sheets are similarly understated. In The World/Third World, 2003, the image of a ship is progressively taken apart through the separation and careful recombination of its constituent elements through a sequence of eight watercolors. Finally it becomes transformed into the image of an artificial island floating in the sea, at once different from and similar to the initial image, in an ideal taxonomy. Thus the artist focuses his attention principally on the linguistic elements that compose (or comment on) the work, in order to use them as connotative signs that contribute actively to the construction of meaning.

Macdonald also seems to be interested in perceptual processes and their disturbances. Another DVD, Mysterioso, 2003, shown on a monitor, analytically captures a pool shot and its consequences. The camera focuses solely on the hands of the player who maneuvers the cue, the green baize of the surface, and the balls that slowly roll about, but without our ever seeing them disappear into the pockets. The camera shows the table from different perspectives, communicating to the viewer a sort of similarity between that small fragment of reality—banal but held in suspense like one of de Chirico’s metaphysical scenes, especially since the sequence is looped—and the rotation of the celestial spheres, an absolutely transcendent but unexpectedly nearby dimension. Macdonald’s art seems to question the real meaning of things, beginning with the presupposition that their images are inherently deceptive, indeed that they are all connected within a single network of relationships based on illusions.

Giorgio Verzotti

Translated from the Italian by Marguerite Shore.