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Art Review: Mark Wallinger Mark @ The Fruitmarket Gallery

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The exhibition ‘Mark Wallinger Mark’ (an elaborate play on words) is taking place at Edinburgh’s Fruitmarket Gallery until the 4th of June, 2017.

The display examines the delicate presence of an individual’s internal world in the context of a wider socio-political global environment. The works date from 2003 to  2016, and the artist explores the meaning of the self from a deeply personal point of view.

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Today, it is an increasingly complicated matter to define ourselves as unique individuals. Perhaps this has to do with the pointless and excessive need for definition, whereby we are constantly required to characterise ourselves (job applications, university applications, etc.). Ironically, the more we define ourselves, the more we lose track of who we truly are.

Wallinger’s works perhaps may shed a light on individuality. Its fluid, and elusive nature, and make us question what it truly means to mark any statement with the term ‘I’.

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The above is a piece called According to Mark (2010)

It consists of 100 chairs, personalised with the name ‘Mark’ on each of them, all facing forward and connected by a white threat into a single point on the wall, suggesting the direction of gaze.

As the artist often references religious imagery in his works, this specific arrangement might suggest the rather unsettling unifying force of religious surmounts, whereby individuality fades away under the weight of sacred doctrines (as was the status quo in the field of arts during the Medieval Period in Europe).

While examining the work, one might think of a perspective drawing, whereby the white threat unites in a singled vanishing point on the wall.

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Above: an example of ID Paintings

At first, these four works, named ID Paintings, invoke an allusion to the Rorschach psychoanalytical inkblot test, and of course to Freud’s definition of the ID (or it).

By definition, the ID is the highly impulsive part of the self, which reacts to instinctual urges. It is, perhaps, the loose-cannon of our individuality, the feral side of the self. However, the it might also be perceived as a unity of opposites: life (Eros) and death (Thanos), good and evil.

Perhaps, the ID part of us, in its raw and primal state is the core of our individuality and, if categorized, the most unadulterated and altered one.

The ID paintings are intriguing in their delicacy and ethereal appeal. They appear impulsive, but at a closer look, the viewer notices the structured way of their creation. They resemble floating ink in water due to the web-like thin and gentle lines, perhaps as fragile as human sanity and the certainty with which we define ourselves. Each painting invites the viewer to discover hidden plots within its twisted lines, which resemble human figures in an ecstatic dance. 

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Overall, Mark Wallinger’s exhibition is a compelling experience if you wish to question what it means to be an individual and what definitions this entails. 

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