Mat Collishaw

Mat Collishaw, Rohkunstbau 2010

"In those days, the world of mirrors and the world of men were not, as they are now, separate and unconnected. They were, moreover, quite different from one another; neither the creatures nor the colors nor the shapes of the two worlds were the same. The two kingdoms – the specular and the human – lived in peace, and one could pass back and forth through mirrors. One night, however, the people of the mirror invaded this world. Their strength was great, but after many bloody battles, the magic of the Yellow Emperor prevailed. The Emperor pushed back the invaders, imprisoned them within the mirrors, and punished them by making them repeat, as though in a kind of dream, all the actions of their human victors. He stripped them of their strength and their own shape and reduced them to mere servile reflections. One day, however, they will throw off that magical lethargy. The first to awaken shall be the Fish. In the depths of the mirror, we shall perceive a faint, faint line, and the color of that line will not resemble any other. Then, other forms will begin to awaken. Gradually they will become different from us; gradually they will no longer imitate us; they will break through the barriers of glass or metal, and this time they will not be conquered. Water-creatures will battle alongside mirror-creatures."
From: Jorge Luis Borges “Animals that Live in the Mirror”, in: “The Book of Imaginary Beings”, translated by Andrew Hurley, © 2005 by Penguin Group (USA) Inc., © Maria Kodama 1995/2005. Used by permission of Viking Penguin, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

Mat Collishaw is one of the 16 artists whose works were shown in the 1988 Freeze exhibition, curated by Damien Hirst, which became the core of the Young British Artists. His diverse works, including photography, painting, installation, video and sculpture, initially appear to have a florid beauty with a hint of the baroque. However, on closer examination the ambiguity in the individual works emerges – the innocent, seeming lovely flowers seem to resemble genitals, or delicate butterflies explode. His new work is “zoetrope”, a cylindrical device with figures set on a revolving disc that casts images onto the wall. It seems reminiscent of a child’s toy – yet this is a roundabout comprising copulating couples. There are fluid borders between the shocking and transitory, the romantic escalates into violence and the aesthetic morphs into a nightmare in works consciously harnessing the power of the provocative.

At first glance, Mat Collishaw’s video installation “Vanitas” appears to be a simple mirror that he has mounted in an elaborate Victorian wooden frame for Rohkunstbau. The beholders initially only see their own reflection but, since there is a double projection system behind the mirror, other objects appear almost simultaneously. This game with illusion and appearance is realised in a meditative form as fish and strange shapes, apparently sea creatures, swim across the screen – a clear reference to the downfall of Atlantis, which sank into the sea. Transience reaches its highpoint in the classic still life elements of a skull and sandglass, which are visible on a third level.

Selected Solo Exhibitions
2010 Retrospective, British Film Institute, London, UK
2009 Nebulaphobia, Uno Su Nove, Rome, Italy
2009 Hysteria, Freud Museum, London, UK
2009 Submission, Haunch of Venison, Berlin, Germany
2008 Deliverance, Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York, USA

Selected Group Exhibitions
2009 Distortion, The Gervasuti Foundation, 53rd Venice Biennial, Venice, Italy
2009 Mythologies, Haunch of Venison, London, UK
2007 Les Fleurs du Mal, Arcos Sannio Contemporary Art Museum, Benevento, Italy
2007 The Tempest – Mat Collishaw and Paul Fryer, The Gervasuti Foundation, 52nd Venice Biennial, Venice, Italy
2007 Reconstruction #2, Sudeley Castle, Gloucestershire, UK