rachel maggart, b. 1985, USA
Rachel Maggart grew up in Knoxville, Tennessee. She trained for twenty years as a classical pianist and received a degree in Music from New York University, before working as an art writer for a variety of print and digital publications. Rachel expanded into working as a consultant in public relations and development for non-profit organisations committed to experimental and emerging art forms. She went on to pursue a Masters in Art History at Hunter College in New York but midway through relocated to London to finish her degree at Birkbeck College, where she received a scholarship awarded to only two non-EU scholars at the School of Arts.
Soon after arriving in London, Rachel began working as a dealer of modern art for a Mayfair gallery, which inspired her to cultivate her own longstanding fascination with artistic practice. She opened her first solo exhibition of ten paintings in Borough Market's Roast Restaurant in 2015. As primitive digital collages transposed to canvas, the works use British pop and art historical iconography as a point of departure for examining contemporary modes of perception and pre-packaged visual narratives.
Rachel has become increasingly attuned to issues of policing and scrutiny in the name of Islam, since marrying ex-Islamist and political prisoner turned advocate for liberal values and Islamic reform, Maajid Nawaz. Critics of her husband have stalked and maligned her family on public fora, and in April 2015, prior to Maajid's Liberal Democrat Parliamentary campaign, circulated a Daily Mail article strategically publishing CCTV footage of his visit to a London strip club. Video footage was leaked to the newspaper via the club's Muslim owner, who scorned Maajid for his indulgent behaviour during Ramadan. The coverage and its propagation in outlets such as the 'Middle East Eye' incited death threats to Maajid and necessitated installing panic alarms around their flat and in Rachel's studio.
Double Exposure is the artist's response to this exploitative and mortifying experience. Revisiting her method of appropriating and manipulating loaded imagery to expose underlying motives and hidden value systems, Rachel has recycled pieces of text and stereotyped representations of both the sacred and the profane to shine a light on the manufacture and dissemination of moralising viewpoints. Paying tribute to the fallen Charlie Hebdo Editor in Chief, Charb's reflection on God as a super-surveillance camera, the painting mocks voyeurism masquerading as religious observance. Images of sensual Quranic verses and Western debauchery converge in a decapitated body, to complicate conventional notions of beauty and objects of desire. Equal parts naïf and baroque, the painting interrogates looking for the sake of looking. It forces the viewer to consider context before subject matter and glossy facades obscuring deeper interpretations of events. Read more about Rachel's motivations and method behind Double Exposure here.
'Verily, as for those who like [to hear] foul slander spread against [any of] those who have attained to faith grievous suffering awaits them in this world and in the life to come: for God knows [the full truth], whereas you know [it] not.' – 24:19, Muhammad Asad translation