Mark Wallinger Mark @ The Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh
Chigwell-born artist Mark Wallinger’s work (currently showing partially at The Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh and partially at Dundee Contemporary Arts until 4th June 2017) has a distinctly existential and isolationist feel.
The simplest and most stark of his installations at The Fruitmarket is a collection of black and white paintings of the letter “I”, each one entitled “Self Portrait”. It’s a straightforward portrayal of how the perception of self can vary according to mood and outlook. However, here it is reduced to the bare minimum of symbolism, representing how the complexities of a person's self-perception are only seen in a vastly reduced manner by the observer.
More dramatic is “According to Mark”, a mock auditorium featuring a motley collection of chairs, each one attached via a string to the front and featuring the word “Mark” written on the back. The chairs are different but the word behind each one is the same, turning the piece into a depiction of herd mentality and the pervasive influence of groupthink.
The most challenging and memorable piece of all is Sleeper, a filmed piece from 2004 featuring the artist wearing a bear costume at night sitting outside a soulless office block, with the surrounding city lights (including the distinctive golden arches of the McDonalds sign) reflected in the dark abyss of glass behind him. It’s a heartbreaking portrait of urban isolation and the suppression of the human animal by the overbearing mechanisms of the corporation-driven modern existence.