Review: Maria McKinney, Rothe House

Curiosity was growing inside of us when we stepped through the threshold of Maria McKinney’s show in Rothe House, Parliament Street. ‘Horny Grids’ was the first piece that greeted us. It consists of two large horns, from highland cattle, perched upon two copper pipes. The two horns were pierced with dozens of burnt matches and shopping baskets clustered together to form a base for the copper pipes.

We believe this piece symbolises the economy, after all the valuables have been stripped away. This is very much conveyed by the horns of the cow, what is left over after the butcher has taken the profitable part away. The matches to us represent the global economy – what it was, and is now. We see the matches as having burned brightly previously, but now are burnt out, looking feeble and pathetic – shriveled black husks. The shopping baskets seem to be speaking of a time when there is no need for them, piled up as if discarded in a world where shopping has been reduced greatly, just to necessities.

The shopping trolley to the rear of the gallery conveys a similar sentiment. Wrapped in fishing wire, woven into an interesting bowl-like shape, the piece seems to refer to the fishing industry. Again the theme of environmental exploitation is apparent. As we over-fish and strangle our ocean’s natural resources to feed our own mass consumption, ultimately, we will strangle our own commercial industry and, by extension – ourselves. This is reflected in the fishing line’s gradual consumption of the trolley.

There are two other pieces in this exhibition, not as big or obvious as those described above, but just as important. A small photo is taped to a wall, depicting bird dung, dropped by the bird into the shape of the symbol of infinity. It reminded us of the practice of using found objects to make art, like many of the artists in this year’s festival have mentioned to us, and of the debate between bloggers (after all, isn’t that what we’re doing here?) on being a Creator vs Curator – creating original content, like the stories you tell in blog posts, or blogging about other people’s content, may it be a film or album.

The last exhibit consists of three individually framed Puzzle pages from the Guardian newspaper, standing on the fireplace. On each page, both the crossword and Sudoku puzzles are completed, and there is an intricate design painted onto each crossword with Tippex.

The exhibition as a whole is cosmetically brilliant, and as a result is very easy and enjoyable to view. The themes are contemporary and very relevant while the use of found objects, symmetry and colour all add to the work’s appeal. It is hard to find much to fault in the exhibition and we would recommend it to anyone. With its themes of mass consumption, this one has mass appeal.

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