March 2011

Mat Collishaw

<b> Blain Southern</b> <br /><br />London<br /><br /> In this show inaugurating this new gallery, from the dealers who started Haunch of Venison, Mat Collishaw’s combination of classical themes with ultracontemporary techniques and materials was strangely captivating. His work <em> Superveillance </em>(2010) sets an an eight-foot-tall panel of Corian etched with an image of Bernini’s <em>Ecstasy of Saint Theresa</em> in front of a scanner light that continuously climbs and up and down behind the panel, recalling a photocopier. The effect is to highlight the countertop material’s qualities – as translucent as porcelain but brittle-looking like Styrofoam – as the light captures a surprising array of contours all over the image. It’s hard to know what this is meant to say about Bernini. But Collishaw’s innovative use of materials and light succeeds in making us look afresh at the familiar, even if the harsh glare and buzzing of the light machine makes the piece a bit uncongenial.<br /><br />His use of etched Corian and variable light finds an even better outlet in <em>Lost Prophet</em> (2010), which depicts the cliff in Afghanistan where one of the Bamiyan Buddha sculptures stood until it was demolished by the Taliban in 2001. The combination of translucent material and the void where the statue stood is haunting. <br /><br />The use of religious imagery is more ambiguous in three works with video loops projected through mirrored glass embedded into wooden altarpieces salvaged from old chapels. In <em> Auto-Immolation </em> (2010), the video displays an image of a red orchid catching fire and wilting, while bloodlike liquid drips down its stem. With the altarpiece framing the action like a stage, the whole ensemble is quite theatrical, if straining at the border of kitsch. In another in this series, three niches in a wooden altarpiece contain three different videos of a pole dancer in a bikini. It’s entertaining, but here the mix of the holy and the profane seemed facile.<br /><br /><b>—Roger Atwood</b> <br /><br />