In Eidolon, a single blue iris flower is engulfed in – but not consumed by – flames. Over the course of seven minutes, petals slowly effloresce and shrink within a burning cloak of fire, while a voice sings from the Book of Daniel, Chapter 3.

In Christianity, the blue iris signifies several divine attributes. The flower has historically been associated with the Virgin Mary, faith, wisdom, hope, fortitude, justice, temperance, and patience. In religious gardens, the flowers symbolise heaven. Artists including Monet, Matisse, Van Gogh, Anish Kapoor, Giuseppe Penone and Picasso have used irises to signal virtue.

In this work, the flames symbolise an intent to destroy the innate beauty of the image itself. This tension heightens over the course of the work, as the iris slowly furls and blooms within a dancing shroud of fire, whilst remaining essentially intact. This state of imminent immolation – the transient moment before death – is analogous to depictions of the ecstatic sublime, in representations of Christian saints at the moment of death. For these figures, the unshakeable promise of the hereafter, tested to the absolute limits of human endurance in crucifixion, sustains their resolve through aggression, attack, physical agony, and slow death. Life, the corporeal self, the body is gratefully sacrificed to God. 

The phenomenon is accompanied by Bible verses, sung in Latin, from the Book of Daniel, Chapter Three, recounting the story of three subjects of Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. They are brought to the king after refusing to worship a colossal gold icon he has erected, in his own image, declaring instead they only worship God. Steadfast and resolute, the three men resist the kings fury, so soldiers are commanded to bind and throw them into a fiery furnace, several times hotter than usual”. In their haste, the soldiers themselves fall into the flames and are immediately killed. Yet, when the king and his acolytes investigate the furnace, they see Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego walking amidst the flames, unharmed and accompanied by a fourth figure, the Son of God. The men are called out, emerging unharmed, at which point Nebuchadnezzar proclaims the supremacy of God, decreeing anyone who should speak against Him, be cut into pieces.

Like the men in the parable, in Eidolon the iris remains intact, within the flames – indeed, it moves and blooms within the flames, as if joyfully resisting destruction and the impotence of the flames, in a constant affirmation of life.

Martyrdom in art history is a very particular phenomenon. Martyrs are defined by their excruciating deaths, Saint Sebastian being killed by hundreds of arrows or Saint Lawrence, being burned alive. In the Western art canon, these brutal deaths are usually presented as a meditation on faith, as the subject looks heavenwards, with an expression of bewildered ecstasy, reckoning not with their Earthy tormentors, but a force greater than all human suffering and death. Martyrdom, the ultimate victory of faith, is choosing to surrender life for God.


The burning iris speaks of the sublimation of pain, suffering and impending death, within the light of faith. Emmanuel Kant identified the sublime as humanitys inability to comprehend the infinite vastness of creation and in realising this, recognising humanitys own insignificance. This is the bedrock of faith. However, this evolving series of burning flower artworks function as surrogates of the crucifixion, the notion of a horrific physical ordeal transcended through a belief in a higher power.

The vivid appalling horror of the account serves as a dynamic counterpoint to the unimaginative ersatz golden idol conferred by Nebuchadnezzar. Eidolon attempts to emulate this violently transcendental state, a ghostly, chimerical testament to unswerving faith.


Arsalan Mohammad





This work assumes the appearance of a slide projection. As the slides turned over in the carousel they seem to melt and burn up under the light from the projector.

The photographs were taken from the disastrous Second World War campaigns in Barbarossa where many lives were lost to the onslaught of fire or the bitter cold.

I projected the slides in a film projector and left them to burn and melt. I filmed this process and edited the footage to simulate a slide carousel projection, accompanied by the appropriate sound effects.

This footage was then projected onto ground glass plates attached to1940’s theatre projection lights.


Joseph Wright of Derby made a painting of an early scientific experiment with an air pump. The purpose of the experiment was to see if life was possible in a vacuum. Wright paints a bird trapped inside a glass bell jar surrounded by a small family who respond in various ways to the event of the dying life. The older men are scientifically enthralled while the young girl cries.

Collishaw remade this scenario by filming a canary and then projecting the video back inside a bell jar on a ground glass screen. The viewer comes and goes, but the canary is trapped, condemned to hop around for eternity.

Hollow Oak

The video of an English oak is projected into a camera glass negative carrier.

Butterfly Jar

Horn Blower

Two-Way Thing

Shakin' Jesus

Despite the many depictions of Christ crucified in existence, Collishaw wasn’t aware of there being any images that actually covered a period of time, where the shivers and spasms of the tortured body were evident.

The crucifixion to us is an emblem without movement. Collishaw wanted to create an image more faithful to the real event; replacing the poise of a human statue with the troubling sight of a man in the throes of death.

By projecting looped video footage of himself, crucified and twitching, Collishaw introduced time as a vital aspect of this iconic scene.

Cold Blooded Amusement