Djanogly Gallery, Lakeside Arts, Nottingham
March 14th, 2020–September 5th 2021
Lakeside Arts’ Djanogly Gallery is delighted to announce the first solo exhibition in Nottingham of leading contemporary artist Mat Collishaw (born 1966). Since graduating from Goldsmith’s College in the late 1980s, the artist has established an international reputation; this will be his first major exhibition in the city of his birth. A key figure in an important generation of contemporary British artists Collishaw first rose to prominence with his work Bullet Hole (1988), a large-scale forensic image of a head fractured by a bullet. The work was exhibited in the renowned artist-led group show Freeze in 1988 and later in Sensation, the controversial exhibition held at the Royal Academy in 1997. Both exhibitions were instrumental in placing British art at the forefront of the global art scene and have since entered modern art history. Drawing on contemporary culture, art history, the scientific and natural worlds, Collishaw is acutely aware of the power of the image and an exploration of photographic or lens-based media often lies at the heart of his works. One of four installations in the exhibition, Albion (2017) includes a haunting projected image of Nottingham’s most famous landmark: the Major Oak. This centuries-old tree in Sherwood Forest is a symbol of an enduring myth but has at its core a hollow, rotten trunk and is propped up with chains and metal supports. Collishaw's almost life-size and slowly rotating image of the oak was created by laser scanning the tree. The symbolism of a once grand icon now reduced to an obsolete and antiquated skeleton echoes the nostalgic idylls resurrected during the campaign to leave the European Union. In Camera (2015) is an installation created around a series of twelve crime scene negatives made during the 1930s and ‘40s. Collishaw discovered these uncatalogued images hidden amongst an archive of police negatives in the Library of Birmingham. Printed in phosphorescent (glow-in-the-dark) ink and mounted in transparent boxes, random flashes of light cause the images to glow briefly; just as one disappears, another one lights up. The mundane scenes - a sofa with an upturned shoe, a lamp that’s been overturned - become charged by the illicit acts implied. In contrast, The Centrifugal Soul (2016) is a modern version of a Victorian zoetrope. A precursor to modern filmmaking, it produces the illusion of motion through rapid rotation and strobe lighting. As it spins it animates scenes of Bowerbirds and Birds of Paradise in a riotous performance of natural display that hints at our modern-day preoccupation with self-image. Our obsession with social media is explored further in The Machine Zone (2019), an installation of animatronic bird skeletons encased in glass chambers that continuously peck at buttons in the hope of a random reward. The work is based on experiments by behavioural psychologist B.F. Skinner who first demonstrated the addictive effect of variable rewards and whose research has been incorporated into algorithms used by social media companies, driving our need for likes, comments, and shares. Last Meal on Death Row, Texas (2010) is a series of works based on the meals requested by prisoners on Death Row before execution. These sombre images of breakfast cereals and fast food are restaged as seventeenth-century Vanitas paintings, a tradition, that typically reflects on mortality, the meaningless accumulation of worldly goods and the transience of life.