Sara MacKillop: Returns and Renewals review

4 out of 5 stars
Sara MacKillop: Returns and Renewals review
Sara MacKillop 'Swatchbook' (2018) Published and fabricated by Laurel Parker Books © the artist

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

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I’m no stranger to stationery porn. The gentle give of embossed leather notebooks, the physical sensuality of heavyweight fountain pens, the quick-hit thrill of a shiny three-pack in Paperchase. But Sara MacKillop’s ‘Returns and Renewals’, running simultaneously at Peer and nearby Shoreditch Library, is pen and paper worship of a different kind. Instead of going gooey over ludicrously priced notepads and ironic artisan quills, these small-scale installations get their kicks from the ordinary beauty of everyday writing equipment.

In Peer there are two installations made out of library trolleys, nondescript notebook covers, bland paper bags and a laminated sheet of discount products from Maplin. Dotted around the room are pen holders shaped like giant biros filled with fluoro Lucozade, plus some enlarged images of generic pens. Elsewhere, a mini pink highlighter pokes out from the centre of a cheap canvas still wearing its original sale label.

Over in the library, another installation made of more library trolleys, a pop-up calendar and a long expanse of unrolled paper occupies an otherwise unremarkable corner of the downstairs area. To get to it, you have to tiptoe past the kids getting half-term tutorials and the shelves of YA fiction smelling like slightly mouldy heaven in their crackly plastic covers.

It’s the basic bitch category of stationery: Rymans not Smythson. But that’s precisely where the joy is found. By isolating and reappropriating these incredibly ordinary bits and pieces, MacKillop magics them into objects worthy of, if not love, then certainly respect.

There’s also something faintly flirtatious going on. That solo pink highlighter poking through the white canvas looks a little like a nipple and those freestanding giant pens could be the mass produced plastic version of an ancient fertility symbol. Sure, it doesn’t reach the dizzy heights of a Kaweco Classic Sport in racing green (the sexiest fountain pen ever), but after a while that crackly pack of brand new Bics acquires an allure all of its own.

By: Rosemary Waugh


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