Jillian McDonald

Jillian McDonald

Room 1

Jillian Mcdonald




New York based, Canadian artist Jillian McDonald is inspired by the imaginary worlds created by horror films. In her drawings, performances, videos, and media works, zombies and masked characters emerge in unexpected ways within various urban and rural landscapes. This strange atmosphere permeates Valley of the Deer, created by McDonald in Scotland, at the Glenfiddich International Artist’s Residency, now presented at CLARK. Valley of the Deer is a three-channel video projection depicting typical Scottish imagery: fog-covered landscapes, verdant heaths, and kilt-wearing men. Fauna, such as sheep, deer, barn owls, and horses, play an important role and figure prominently in many sequences. Men and women also appear in these picturesque landscapes, however, they each wear an animal mask. References to animism could be made, the belief that spirits of the dead or animal deities possess forces for good or evil. These half-human, half-animal characters appear and disappear within the landscape in ways that suggest an imaginary presence as much as a real one. This in-between effect is amplified when animal figures appear embedded within certain scenes, adding to the strangeness of the imagery. The video, lasting over 20 minutes, has no clear narrative structure. It is primarily a sequence of individual scenes where parallel universes representing centuries-old Scottish myths and legends are superimposed upon each other. The soundtrack, composed of field recordings, bagpipe music, and a singing female voice, acts as a kind of magical incantation.

On one of the room’s walls, the artist has created a series of red and black drawings, like a gallery of portraits that echo the video. Drawn in situ, animals and figures emerge from the wall’s surface, transforming themselves into ghostly presences. In addition to the gallery presentation, viewers can extend their experience of the work by using the Layar app, available on all mobile platforms[1]. This augmented reality piece accompanies the work wherever Valley of the Deeris presented, and allows viewers to see characters from the video appear throughout the surrounding neighbourhood. Screen captures taken with a mobile phone allow viewers to archive these apparitions and create individual works that can be shared with others.

Manon Tourigny (translated by Jo-Anne Balcaen)

[1] Instructions can be found by following this link: http://turbulence.org/Works/fromthevalleyofthedeer/


Jillian McDonald is a Canadian artist who divides her time between New York and Canada. Solo shows and projects include the Esker Foundation in Calgary, Air Circulation in New York, and Hallwalls in Buffalo. Her work has been included in group exhibitions including The Whitney Museum's Artport in New York and The Edith Russ Haus for Media Art in Oldenburg, and was the subject of a 2013 radio documentary by Paul Kennedy on CBC's IDEAS. In 2012 she represented Canada at the Glenfiddich International Residency in Dufftown, Scotland. 

This work was produced at the Glenfiddich International Residency in Dufftown, Scotland.

Thanks to all the actors and musicians; and special thanks to Andy Fairgrieve. 

From the Valley of the Deer is a 2013 commission of New Radio and Performing Arts, Inc. for its Turbulence web site, and was funded by the Jerome Foundation (now celebrating 50 years of the creative spirit of emerging artists) and the Canada Council for the Arts. Thanks to Naomi Potter, Esker Foundation curator and director.