My 50-minute pilgrimage over to the & Gallery in New Town to see Lily Macrae’s Reverie collection was certainly worth it.
After graduating from Edinburgh School of Art in 2016, Macrae now works in Glasgow. This is her first solo exhibition, showcasing her ‘tableaux vivants’.
Macrae’s style is original and inventive. She has incorporated snippets of film stills as well as details of the paintings of Old Masters, including Eugène Delacroix and Michelangelo Mersi da Caravaggio, to produce this collection of emotive pieces.
Her works are difficult to pin down – they are both illusory and physical, abstract yet also real. As a viewer, it is as though standing from an external perspective, you’re absorbing the figures’ internal experiences. It is a strange dream-like feeling.
“I want the viewer to draw more from each work the longer you look at it, finding a quietness and a sense of stillness, to pause. I want the works to hold the feeling that they are on a precipice, the edge of something that is about to happen.”, says Macrae.
I practised this process of ‘slow-looking’. Whilst the exhibition did showcase smaller abstract pieces, I found myself caught up in the movements of Macrae’s sweeping brushstrokes. In a symbiotic process, she builds up layers and then wipes them away as though she is working in reverse.
The subjects of Macrae’s paintings seem to have been depicted emerging from a place of obscure darkness into what could be interpreted as a new sense of clarity. They feel isolated from the viewer, absorbed in their own moment of realisation. There is an initial barrier that prohibits viewers from entering into this world that Macrae has encapsulated – who are these subjects, what are they thinking, where have they come from, where are they now? The answers to which viewers can only speculate.
The more I questioned, the more I became engrossed in the intensity of the paintings. The evocative mixture of lucid colours as well as hazy tones separates the viewers from the present moment as they become further entranced into an unempirical space.
Both Sides Now, below, where Macrae depicts two women in the midst of laughter, was particularly engrossing. Blending bright fuchsia with deep violet tones, Macrae manages to depict emotion so viscerally you can feel the warmth of friendship.
Apprehensive at first of the empty gallery, I began to appreciate the power of the silence. Macrae’s works have a transformative, perhaps even restorative, force to them. So head down to Dundas Street before 1st March to try and decipher the ethereal world Macrae depicts.
Images taken by the author courtesy of &Gallery