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On first impressions Anne MacDonald's "Romance", an installation of over fifty framed photographs, appears to be an obsessive deconstruction of romantic kitsch. The central figures are surrounded by a sea of romantic icons - red roses, choccy boxes, lacy doilies, cupid’s arrows, hearts, hooks, knives, and funereal roses - all oversaturated and shining sickly from within their ornate gilt frames. The viewer is forced into a banal confrontation with the glossy plastic debris of romance, gushing over the gallery walls.
Although this random scatter of signs seems to form a fatalist combination, MacDonald's careful dissection and fragmentation reveal the highly constructed ritual of romance. For MacDonald it is a ritual drained of meaning. The nature of romance suggests a desperate desire which is never fulfilled, here however, the two androgynous nudes mirror each other's sterile deathly gesture of desire - the half hearted limply outstretched hand. The two, poised and posed for love, are subjected to the same trite movies: The lovers' desire for unity and even their vision of each other, is obscured by the shroud of romantic drapery which separates yet promises to link them. Their fate - to remain suspended in a permanent state of limbo.
The confined smaller images, set in satin, framed, and packaged echo the empty commodification of romance. The goldfish in heartshaped sardine tins and chocolates in heartshaped boxes mimic little appetisers placed around the nudes, already dissected into separate consumable items. Feast-like in arrangement, the images are tipped up on the gallery wall to see the spread a little better.
MacDonald's "still-life" sets up the desirable state of romance as repulsively indulgent while throwing into question the obsessive activity of analysis. The 1mages of clinical scissors and knives mock psychoanalytic investigation and suggest anaesthetized pain. MacDonald's destabilization of the surface opens an eerie void beneath.
Anne Macdonald, Installation view of The Romance, 1987
Anne MacDonald, untitled work from The Romance, 1987