Jocelyn McGregor: Mantle

16 January 2022 — 20 February 2022

Mantle: Exhibition Preview, Thursday 13 January / 6pm-8pm. Book a free ticket HERE 

Mantle: Slow Saturday Preview, Saturday 15 January, 12noon-5:30pm. Book a free ticket HERE 

Mantle is the first major solo exhibition of work by Jocelyn McGregor. McGregor’s work involves sculpture, installation and animation. Taking inspiration from folklore, surrealism and supernatural fiction, she dismantles the ways in which female identity is associated with nature, the home and the machine. McGregor finds parallels between the treatment of the body in horror films and her everyday lived experience of the female body which is often visually dissected to be valued and judged. In McGregor’s work a monstrous and fragmented body comes back to haunt the viewer.

In shelled molluscs, the mantle is the organ that forms the shell. It creates calcified layers that separate, support or protect the softer mollusc tissue, forming boundaries or thresholds between internal habitats and external worlds. Working with domestic fabrics, beauty products, earth pigments and industrial materials, McGregor traverses the perceived boundaries between human, nature and machine. As our lives are increasingly played out onscreen McGregor has also been experimenting with stop-motion animation. A medium which enables otherwise inanimate objects to interact with ‘real’ life environments, blurring the line between the real and the fantastic.

In many of McGregor’s works so-called lower animals and creatures often thought to be pests, associated with infestation, disease and decomposition are enlarged and disjointed. New works for this exhibition include wearable sculptures, combining synthetic hair, natural latex and false nails which mimic nature with machine and handmade elements. As appendages they extend the human body into creaturely realms like prostheses for limbs we didn’t realise we were missing. This contact with what we may find disgusting and disturbing is a regular feature of horror films, a rich source of inspiration for McGregor and a genre with continued if not increasing mainstream appeal, perhaps not in spite of the pandemic but because of it.

Like leftovers from a dream, McGregor’s works crawl and creep into the gallery, climbing over it, snaking round corners and hanging down walls. Encroaching into the space like unclipped fingernails and overgrown hair, reclaiming space like roots and vines.

Nature in McGregor’s work is neither benign nor simply aggressive as is sometimes the case in horror films when nature appears to take revenge on our problematic species for the damage we have done to it. McGregor’s work shares an affinity with the sub-genre of Eco-Gothic where the relationship between humans and nature is more ambiguous. McGregor’s work might prompt us to consider the useful roles performed by bats, snails, spiders and worms in nature and how they ultimately contribute to sustaining human life. Crucially though, this close encounter with nature does not point towards an easy resolution, a simple becoming whole again, or being one with nature. The fragmented elements in McGregor’s work suggest something inconsistent and incomplete at the heart of what humans are, and of nature itself.

Jocelyn Mcgregor: Mantle, was selected from proposals submitted by Castlefield Gallery Associates by guest selector Mariama Attah who is curator at Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool and Castlefield Gallery Curator Matthew Pendergast. 

Jocelyn McGregor (b. 1989, Lincolnshire) currently lives and works in Cumbria.  She studied Fine Art at the Ruskin School of Fine Art, Oxford University (2010); and completed her MFA in Sculpture at the Slade School of Fine Art, UCL (2017). She was awarded the Lee Alexander McQueen: Sarabande Foundation Emerging Artist Award (2017), selected for Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2018, exhibiting in Liverpool Biennale and South London Gallery; and was Artist-in-Residence as part of the British Council SWAP UK/Ukraine Residency Programme 2019-20. Recent exhibitions include ‘Trespassers Will Be Detected’, Dnipro Centre for Contemporary Culture, Ukraine (2020); ‘Rain Wetting Thirst’, Lewisham Arthouse, London (2019); ‘A Field Guide to Getting Lost’, The Art Foundation, Athens, Greece (2018); and ‘Mei Yahn Yu’, Kaitak Centre (AVA), Hong Kong (2018).

PODCAST: A Body of Horror: Jocelyn McGregor in conversation with Dr Maisha Wester and Dr Xavier Aldana Reyes

For this special Halloween podcast Jocelyn McGregor met with Dr Maisha Wester and Dr Xavier Aldana Reyes ahead of her solo exhibition at Castlefield Gallery in 2022 to consider our changing perspectives towards horror. Thinking about the relationships between horror cinema, body horror, surrealism and McGregor’s work they discuss the enduring power of horror’s transgressive nature and how it might speak to or challenge our understanding of gender, race and the politics of our time.


PODCAST: Jocelyn McGregor in-conversation with Mariama Attah

Podcast: Anchor, Spotify