Nashashibi / Skaer: Our Magnolia (4 stars)

This article is from 2009

Nashashibi/Skaer: Our Magnolia

Artistic collaborators tackle controversial subject compellingly and powerfully

Artistic collaborators tackle controversial subject compellingly and powerfully

The artistic careers of Rosalind Nashashibi and Lucy Skaer have followed parallel courses. Born two years apart, the pair studied at Glasgow School of Art, exhibited at the 52nd Venice Biennale in 2007, and have collaborated as Nashashibi/Skaer on five pieces since 2005 (this is the first to be exhibited in Scotland). To date Skaer is the only one with a Turner Prize nomination under her belt.

The work on display here is actually a diptych. The first-encountered is a screenprint bearing a striking juxtaposition: on the left, what appears to be a pretty cream flower opening under a clearing pink and blue sunrise or sunset; on the right, a stately monochrome photographic portrait of Margaret Thatcher. Each segment appears to bear no relation to the other, at least without the knowledge that the painting is a work by early 20th century war artist Paul Nash, entitled ‘Flight of the Magnolia’, and that the ‘flower’ is a burst of parachutes opening as one, from Nash’s ‘Aerial Flowers’ series. At this point, the Falklands War might spring to mind.

The film at the heart of Our Magnolia is only 270 seconds long, yet loaded with concise, suggestive images. We see Nash’s painting: magnolia flowers blooming in the dew; a dead bird half buried on a sandy beach, its cleaned ribs and hollowed-out eyes pored over in close-up detail; the back of a man’s head, turned away towards a computer screen; the screams and sobs – unmuting the sound right at the film’s end – of what appears to be a grieving Middle Eastern woman.

Through it all, there’s Thatcher: pink-lipped, blusher-cheeked, pearl-adorned and somehow soft-featured and maternal. This film celebrates not her politics, but her classic magnolia-scented femininity. Perhaps the artists’ gaze through a veil of nostalgia for this iconic power figure of their youths and her strangely old-fashioned wars, tempered by a creeping dread of the macho playground world politics became a decade after she left office. Or perhaps they can still see the shadow her work has cast over their lifetime. Either way, a controversial subject for a eulogy.

Doggerfisher, 558 7110, until 26 Sep, free.

Nashashibi / Skaer

  • 4 stars

Rosalind Nashashibi and Lucy Skaer have been collaborating since 2005. For their first solo exhibition in Scotland they will exhibit a new 16mm film, specially commissioned by doggerfisher. The film takes as its starting point the paintings of the early 20th century British artist, Paul Nash and in particular his…