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Jess MacNeil

Opera House Steps, March 2006

Museum of Contemporary Art, donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program by Michael Hawker, 2009

single-channel digital, video, colour, sound, 2min 56s

2 min 56s

About the Artwork

Jess MacNeil’s practice shifts between superbly orchestrated digital video to sensuously painted fragments from filmed footage, exploring fluidity and slippage between image, media and form. MacNeil effortlessly translates her intense focus across moving and still imagery, refining and reworking the essential qualities that concern her – light, shadow, water, colour and movement against both natural and built environments, and our interaction within them.

Preoccupied with the lingering traces of human passage through time and particular places, Jess MacNeil’s works invite consideration of the complex pre-conditions and subtle repercussions of our encounters. Her paintings and video works explore the visible and invisible influences that govern the way we perceive and inhabit the world, presenting an emphatically subjective visual translation of the amorphous ’shape’ of our relationship to our surroundings and to one another.

The evocative effects in Jess MacNeil’s video works are the result of subtle, digital manipulation. In her video projection based on the Sydney Opera House steps at particular times (March and December 2006), the artist uses live footage (captured on video) of visitors moving up and down the steps of the Opera House which she then deconstructs by digitally erasing their bodies from the sequence, leaving just their shadows.

The regularly spaced steps of the forecourt, with elongated, distorted silhouettes rising and descending across what now appears as a field of parallel lines, create a dynamic optical rhythm – like notes upon a stave. MacNeil’s allusion to a musical scale, together with the play of shadows cast by moving bodies, resonates with the purpose of the building – a venue for dance, theatre and musical performances.


Judith Blackall, ‘Soluble time’, catalogue essay, Jess MacNeil, Gallery Barry Keldoulis, Sydney, May 2011

My practice is situated at the points of intersection between painting, installation, video and photography, taking as subject matter the dynamics of public space and its translation into pictorial space.

Jess MacNeil, 2008

Jess MacNeil

– About the artist


Investigating our relationship with the world around us, Jess MacNeil’s practice spans painting, drawing, video and installation. Through simple elements of lines, traces and shadows, point of view, repetition, and playback speed, her works explore our perceptions and experiences of the everyday environment.

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