Jacqueline Donachie: Deep in the Heart of your Brain

A contemplative but unsentimental exhibition centred around Donachie’s new film made with women living with myotonic dystrophy

It’s been a while since Jacqueline Donachie has exhibited her work within the confines of a white-walled gallery space. For a long time the Glasgow-born artist’s practice has remained consistent with her roots as a 90s graduate of Glasgow School of Art’s influential environmental art department, with public sculpture and subtle ephemeral interventions making up the majority of her CV.

So how does her work operate in a conventional exhibition without the noisy interference of everyday urban occurrences? Of course, the quiet reverence of the gallery helps us pick up on the many subtleties inscribed in her minimal sculptures. The arrangement of metal ramps carefully piled in the centre of the room look like a stage, but it is the tiny marks from everyday use that bring it to life. Another work comprises elongated neon scaffolding that sweeps through the gallery at awkward heights. These works make us look harder at the things we think we know while acting as metaphors for the obstacles we face and overcome in life.

While linked thematically, the 2015 film Hazel, which stems from Donachie’s period of research with women who suffer with myotonic dystrophy, feels quite separate from the sculptures and works on paper. What does unite them is a strange sense of detachment from the artist. At first glance it might seem like the exhibition is driven by formal concerns or wider issues unrelated to the personal, but it is in fact very much to do with the artist’s idiosyncratic experience of the world. We learn that members of Donachie’s own family suffer from myotonic dystrophy, which could come as a surprise given the unsentimental, matter-of-fact style of the film.

The exhibition is at once personal and impersonal: stoic and poetic. Life is peculiar, unpredictable and tough, Deep in the Heart of Your Brain seems to tell us: all you can do is take it as it comes.

Jacqueline Donachie: Deep in the Heart of your Brain, Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow until Sun 13 Nov.

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