Art Culture

Reviewing Ross MacRae’s Submerged at the Custom House

Atlantis in the making, Submerged takes a hauntingly close look at the potential future awaiting us. The collection contains a variety of intriguing scenes – from illustrating the darkest, unfathomable parts of the ocean and mechanical structure of various sea-faring equipment to venturing deep into a living forest fortified with mythical creatures of all shapes and sizes.

Perhaps the most intriguing part of the exhibition is the detailed and intricate brushwork coupled with the use of a wood canvas that can transport you directly into the paintings themselves.

Ross MacRae is the artist behind the exhibition. He is sitting at the entrance – a slew of postcards scattered on the table in front of him. The postcards do not do the collection justice; a look around the room and the paintings loom over you, beckoning you to come closer and uncover all of its secrets.

When asked about his use of wood, Ross tells me that he prefers this sort of canvas with acrylic paints for its finish. Though requiring a lot of effort on the part of the artist to prepare the canvas, the end result is more than worth it; his paintings act as living proof of this statement.

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Created during the initial lockdown, Submerged worships are darkest nightmares; refusing to let us deny the truth any longer. Prophetic, in every sense of the word, it shows us how much damage climate change is possible of doing and in many ways, has already done. Darker shades of blue, green, and brown – they litter the parts of the canvas that aren’t already shrouded in black paint.

But the series goes beyond that. A glimmer of hope, a spark of light still lives, and MacRae shows us this throughout his paintings with his playful use of light and shadow. Sky Ship acts as an apparent contrast to the rest of the collection.

Engulfed entirely in the light and devoid of the haunting darkness, it embodies a more hopeful tone than some of the other paintings in the exhibition. However, even the grimmest of the series still showcase the ability for redemption.

One of the paintings, which the exhibition is named after (as I assume), depicts an ethereal form as a single eye observing the introduction of nature to mankind.

The eye, shrouded in darkness, reflects the flickers of light from a submarine that is designed to look like a sea creature. The encounter is unnatural in ways, yet a still moment where one side is wholly enraptured and more importantly, thoroughly unimposing on each other.

Evocative and self-reflective, Submerged is worth the visit and will leave you considering everything you saw for days to come. Take the time to devour this fantastic exhibition by Ross MacRae. It is guaranteed to throw you off, in the best of ways!

Image: Hannah Frood

By Ece Kucuk

Ece Kucuk served as President of The Student in 2021/22 and is currently a regular contributor to the paper. She was previously Head Editor-in-Chief and Features Editor, she has also been a writer at The Student for over two years. She is going into her Fourth Year of a Master of Arts with Honours in English Language and Literature and plans to do her Postgraduate in Education and Child Development. She has written for every section of the paper as well as written for The Rattlecap and other publications. Some of her favourite works include her reflection on being the child of an immigrant, her piece on introducing ice hockey, as well as her interview with children’s author Mariam James.