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Commissioned as an exclusive gift for special friends of The London EDITION, Mat Collishaw’s work Prosopopoeia combines some of the artist’s most iconic imagery while taking on a new perspective, speaking with a new voice. Collishaw: “Generally I make artworks for myself and the people who see them. (For Prosopopoeia) I’ve given a voice to the Hotel.”
A large illuminated diamond slowly rotates before a black background. Within it, reflections of flowers – many of them Collishaw’s beloved orchids – glitter and break up into prisms. The flowers catch fire, burn up, drown in luscious leafy green only to reappear in another rotation of the precious stone.
Form compliments function with the Hotel as subject, object, and exhibition space in mind: the symmetrical diamond shape against the black background potentially allows for the work to be displayed so as to appear magically within a space, as if afloat. The rotation of the diamond evokes the rotating doors of a traditional hotel, part adventure, part sanctuary. The soundtrack, composed by the artist’s son, calls to mind the audio background found in many contemporary hotels when entering elevators, spas, or foyers – while simultaneously underlining distinctness between the environment outside the hotel and within. Collishaw: “The whole piece should represent the Hotel as a mysterious chrysalis emerging onto the scene.”
Collishaw’s artworks are famous for their depth and detail, and Prosopopoeia continues this trend: the rotating diamond becomes a prism through which lives are refracted. Prosopopoeia itself is defined as ‘a figure of speech in which an imaginary or absent person is represented as speaking or acting’. It is a voice speaking for another, and serves as a metaphor for the Hotel’s function as surrogate home. The concept of Prosopopoeia is entirely new, whereas the imagery is iconic: burning flowers that represent feelings and consummation of passion, reincarnation and rebirth.
Mat Collishaw (1966, Nottingham, uK) is associated with the yBA (young British Artist) generation. using diverse media, his art explores themes of beauty, seduction, suppressed desire and dark pleasure.
Collishaw received his BFA from Goldsmith, London, in 1989. His work Bullet Hole (1988) was exhibited in the now famous 1988 exhibition ‘Freeze’, presented in a disused warehouse and curated by Damien Hirst. This exhibition was attended by important art world figures including Charles Saatchi, Norman Rosenthal and Nicholas Serota, and launched the careers of manyof the yBA artists, including Collishaw.
Collishaw has described his interest in creating ‘images that are awe-inspiring’. His works use a visual language that is both romantic and sumptuous while also being unnerving and, at times, disturbing. Pornography, fairies, religion, bestiality and drug abuse have all been represented in the artist’s work. He is interested in the subliminal effect that imagery can have upon the viewer; playing upon this, he often fuses notions of the vile and desirable, the repulsive and inviting through his practice. Collishaw also meaningfully looks back at the history of art; his new-media artwork the end of Innocence draws upon paintings by both the Spanish seventeenth century artist Diego Velázquez and the Irish twentieth century artist Francis Bacon. In 1997, Collishaw’s work was included in the controversial exhibition ‘Sensation’ at the Royal Academy of Art, which showcased works from Charles Saatchi’s collection.
Collishaw explores the ideals and fascinations of Victorian society. Nineteenth century Britain defined itself with empirical soberness, in accordance with scientific progress. However, suppressed perversions also accompanied the Age of Enlightenment. Collishaw’s work references the Victorian period by simulating its elaborately decorative and romantic style, while indirectly conjuring up an essence of society’s dark side.
Over the past decade, he has had numerous international solo shows, including: Cohen Gallery, New york, 1992; Camden Arts Centre, London, 1996; Duty Free Spirits, Lisson Gallery, London, 1997; Galeria d’Arte Moderne, Bologna, Italy, 1999; Museum of Contemporary Art, Warsaw, 2000; Mat Collishaw, Art & Public, Geneva, 2004; Shooting Stars, Haunch of Venison, London, 2008; Hysteria, Freud Museum, London, 2009; Retrospectre, BFI Southbank, London, 2010; and Creation Condemned, Blain | Southern, 2010.
Group exhibitions include: Institute for Cultural anxiety, ICA, London, 1994; Here and now, Serpentine Gallery, London and Brilliant! new art From London, Walker Art Centre, Minneapolis, both 1995; Sensation, Royal Academy of Art, London, 1996; the edge of awareness, P.S.I, New york, 1998; Life/Live, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville, (Paris) and The Brooklyn Museum, New york, 1998; new Blood, Saatchi Gallery, London, 2004; In the darkest Hour there May Be Light, Serpentine Gallery, London, 2006; and Mythologies, Haunch of Venison, London, 2009. Other Criteria and Thames & Hudson have published books with Collishaw’s work, and the Victoria & Albert Museum recently commissioned Collishaw to produce the monumental onsite project, Magic Lantern.
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