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Castle Howard · Galleries · Mat Collishaw

The Centrifugal Soul - Castle Howard, York

The Courtyard Gallery at Castle Howard will open on Saturday (24 March) with Mat Collishaw’s The Centrifugal Soul as its inaugural exhibition

The titular centrepiece is a stunning sculpture, a zoetrope which produces the illusion of motion through rapid rotation and stroboscopic light. This technology, which was the precursor to modern film-making, animates scenes of bowerbirds and birds of paradise as they perform elaborate mating rituals.

The piece was developed by Collishaw through his work with evolutionary psychologist, Geoffrey Miller, who believes that the origins of art stem from natural instincts of courtship and evolution. Miller suggests that evolution has created an inescapable drive to be noticed above the visual competition, feeding our need for self-promotion, and the resulting artwork is truly a feast for the eyes.

The room in which The Centrifugal Soul is displayed is darkened so that light becomes an integral part of the artwork, and this theme continues into the other rooms, where a new body of work continues the examination of visual power play.

Reflecting the rural setting of the gallery, a series of trompe l’oeil prints of birds tethered to perches, called GASCONADES, reference the seventeenth-century fashion for commissioning portraits of prestige pets, made popular through Carel Fabritius’ painting The Goldfinch (1654). The colourful graffiti-tagged walls against which the birds struggle to stand out provide a contemporary example of aesthetic boasting as a form of sexual signalling.

Amongst the new GASCONADES works being shown for the first time are one which features the hawfinch – a bird that caused great excitement earlier this year when a rare colony was spotted feeding at the Yorkshire Arboretum in the grounds of Castle Howard.

“We are absolutely delighted to welcome Mat Collishaw to Castle Howard, and are excited to be hosting the premiere of some of his new works,” comments Nicholas Howard. “It is wonderful to be able to open the Courtyard Gallery with an exhibition from such a prestigious artist, and we know that visitors are going to love the colourful, nature-inspired works that they will see here.”

Castle Howard, York YO60 7DA