The exhibition is divided into two areas, which correspond to the wings of the Villanueva Pavilion and which represent some of the artist’s preoccupations: nature and art history.
“Nature and art history are two themes that have been present in my work for over 20 years. I’ve drawn from them to explore how we create images of the world around us and the way those images influence or change the way we see the world”, says the artist about the two axis that frame the exhibition.
Inspired by its setting within the Royal Botanical Garden, the first half of the exhibition focuses on works that draw from nature. In his Insecticide series (2006-2014), butterflies are crushed and then enlarged to an exaggerated scale. The works capture the lifeless bodies of the insects, suspended in darkness and yet illuminated by the vibrant hues of their torn wings appearing both beautiful and tragic. Collishaw says: “It seemed to me this was a very simple example of the work being an act of death: petit morte […] It records an act of violence but can also produce some quite beautiful images”. In another of Collishaw’s large scale installation, Retrospectre (2010), inspired by the films of Sergei Parajanov, at first mimics a makeshift shrine, but as scenes of animal sacrifices and shots of tempestuous, apocalyptic landscapes emerge, the work transforms into a dark, ghostly cabinet of curiosities.
The second part of the exhibition examines how Collishaw mines and references myth and art history, often creating a contemporary dialogue with past masters. Collishaw’s complex works are rooted in iconic images from art history, cultural references that the artist plays upon in order to transform them into metaphors for contemporary society. The show establishes an interesting dialogue with works exhibited in the Prado Museum. These works unite tradition and modernity, but above all they embody concerns inherent to human beings over the centuries, like the transience of life or the representation of horror. All Things Fall (2014), a work hailed as ‘nothing less than a contemporary masterpiece’ by The Sunday Times critic Waldemar Januszczak, is based on the Biblical story of The Massacre of the Innocents, it combines old technology in the form of a zoetrope with modern 3D printing. As the zoetrope spins, the optical illusion engages and seduces the viewer before they fully realise they are complicit in a scene of genocide.
Collishaw often deals with issues that are morally and politically charged, in his photographic series Last Meal on Death Row, Texas (2011), he presents photographs in the manner of 17th century Flemish still life painting to portray the final meals requested by inmates on death row. The emotional and psychological gravity of each last meal portrayal resonates with a genre rife with overtones of mortality, isolation, and decadence. Collishaw’s work drags our darkest urges into the light – illustrating that humans will never overcome their base instincts, regardless of aesthetic or scientific advancement.
Mat Collishaw. Dialogues is also the artist’s first solo exhibition in Spain and offers an insight into his dark and compelling world through seminal works and rarely seen pieces – including works from Fundació Sorigué’s own collection. Collishaw is part of a key generation of British artists known as the Young British Artists, who came to prominence by exhibiting at the legendary group show Freeze in 1988 – an exhibition that has entered modern art history and was instrumental in placing British art at the forefront of the global art scene. His work Bullet Hole, from 1988 became one of the defining images of the exhibition and the movement. This now iconic piece established Collishaw’s preference for the use of images that are both viscerally shocking and oddly beautiful.
Comprising 30 works including sculptures, photographs, films, and large-format installations from across the last 20 years of his career, the exhibition envelops the viewer in a twilight world of the seductive and the revolting, the familiar and the shocking, the poetic and the morbid. The beauty of Collishaw’s work is to seduce, captivate and hypnotise, whilst encouraging viewers to explore humanities darker side.
Ana Vallés, President of Sorigué and Director of the Fundació Sorigué, says that this exhibition responds to the desire to support artistic creation: “We are driven by bringing contemporary art to all audiences and promoting talent and knowledge through art, because we believe that both the corporate and cultural world and society in general benefit mutually from this exchange,” she said. This is precisely the philosophy of the PLANTA project, an innovative business management tool that serves as an intersection between the Sorigué group and the foundation and is one of the reasons why the Royal Botanical Garden was chosen as the place for the first exhibition in Madrid.
The Fundació Sorigué has been promoting giving back to society from the Sorigué business group for more than 25 years through social, educational, and cultural activities, especially in those places where the company is present. The Foundation has one of the most recognised private collections of contemporary art in Spain and organises temporary exhibitions focused on bringing contemporary artistic creation to all audiences.