Jacqueline Donachie: Mary and Elizabeth (3 stars)

This article is from 2014

Jacqueline Donachie: Mary and Elizabeth

Photography by Stuart Armitt, courtesy of the Artist and Edinburgh Art Festival

Subtle installation across Princes Street Gardens commissioned for the Edinburgh Art Festival

For those visiting Edinburgh during the Festival, Jacqueline Donachie’s red chalk lines, running from Cockenzie to the city centre, could easily be lost among the ubiquitous red of the Fringe stands. Seeking it out and starting at Elizabeth instead of Mary can provoke confusion, as the minimal placard verges on the unhelpful. Like any other ‘route’, a lack of clear instruction will risk losing the sightseer.

On arriving at the painted red bays of Mary in West Princes Street Gardens, the answer is solved – here are leaflets explaining the commission, the red-chalk route, the historical connotations. The information reveals why the RSA railings are red this year.

But then, the leaflet does not explain all. Are the red flowers in the Gardens part of the exhibit? Is the Fringe itself being co-opted by the work? Is the overlap in the historical and present monarchs called ‘Elizabeth’ an intentional reflection on the upcoming referendum? And how much can you experience of a work that already took place, only visible in a few scattered, more permanent interventions?

In the hunt for these answers, Donachie succeeds in highlighting the transience of the political and historical associations she invokes; a history which left marks of varying permanence on Edinburgh and its inhabitants.

East and West Princes St Gardens, until Sun 31 Aug, free.