The exhibition testi es to the depth and breadth of Collishaw’s practice, with new andrecent works including installation, sculpture, photography and painting.
Collishaw is a key gure in an generation of contemporary British artists who came to prominence viathe group show Freeze in 1988. He has never shied away from challenging subject matter, exploring ideas around death, destruction and decay. The artist is known for works that reference art history and create a contemporary dialogue with past masters. The Grinders Cease re ects his preoccupation with the vanitastheme, used since the Renaissance as a way of reminding viewers of the impermanence of worldly pleasures. The exhibition title is borrowed from the King James Bible, Book of Ecclesiastes, from which the Vanitas derives.
The exhibition opens with a new work from 2018, Columbine, which animates Albrecht Dürer’s watercolourstudy Columbine from 1526. This wild plant is a multifaceted example of the transience of life, both in that itblooms only brie y and because the plant itself is poisonous.
The exhibition continues through three separate light-locked spaces. In the rst, Albion takes as its subject the Major Oak in Sherwood Forest, England. This centuries-old mythical tree has a hollow rotten trunk, andsince the Victorian era its vast limbs have been supported by an elaborate system of scaffolding. Collishaw’sslowly rotating, almost life-size image of the oak is a ghost-like apparition generated by both cutting-edge laser scans and an antiquated technique of theatrical projection. Empty at its core, the image represents a living object which is trapped in perpetuity to present the illusion of life. The title also partly derives from the idealised concept of an ancient England that probably never existed.
Last Meal on Death Row, Texas is a series of photographs of meals requested by actual prisoners prior to execution. Presented in the manner of Flemish still life paintings they are a memento mori, a reminder of the inevitability of death and the impermanence of life on earth. Another series, the Black Mirror works,have another effect on the viewer: capturing single gures whose forms have been subtly animated to move behind a surveillance mirror framed in elaborate black Murano glass, the works re ect the viewer’s imageand thus draw a connection between the past and present.
The grand nale is provided by Seria Ludo, a 3D zoetrope sculpture. This kinetic optical illusion rotates at increasing velocity before strobe lights kick in and animate the scene, revealing a frenzied chaos ofdebauchery. 180 tiny gures can be seen carousing across the framework of the chandelier in a manic,drunken orgy. This is a party, but a desperate one, and when will it stop?
‘Then I commended mirth, because a man hath no better thing under the sun,
than to eat, and to drink, and to be merry.’
(King James Bible, Ecclesiastes 8:15)