Artist biography

English photographer, sculptor and filmmaker. He studied at Trent Polytechnic (1985–6), and then at Goldsmiths College, London (1986–9). For his first solo exhibition he created One Photo, Four Broads and a Stretcher, comprising a colour photographic reproduction of Watteau's L'Enseigne de Gersaint (1721; Berlin, Schloss Charlottenburg), greatly enlarged and cursorily attached to a wooden frame. By displaying a reproduction in this way, Collishaw highlights issues of representation, raised in the original painting through the juxtaposition of the false idyll of the fête galante, and the actualities of the art market. Much of Collishaw's subsequent work makes historical and art-historical references that hinge around the broad theme of the interaction between nature and culture. The ambiguous relationship between representation and reality is an underlying theme also of works involving the projection of videos into ‘real' environments. The technological prestidigitation behind these works is always slightly transparent, making viewers aware of their own complicity in being deceived. In other works Collishaw deals with disturbing subject-matter, presented in unexpected formats that both displace and reinforce the impact of the image. In the three-part series of photographs The Awakening Conscience (1997), young girls are shown in woodlands surrounded by the remnants of alcohol and solvent abuse. The title is borrowed from a moralising painting by William Holman Hunt, and the images mimic the seductive, mysterious look of 19th-century photography; the highly contemporary nature of the girls' dilemma, however, suggests the difficulty of preserving innocence and the dangers of sentimentalising history.

Bibliography
Exhibit A: Eight Artists from Europe and America (London, Serpentine Gal., 1992)
Mat Collishaw (exh. cat., essay J. Thompson, Italy, Artimo Foundation, 1997)

JOHN-PAUL STONARD
10 December 2000

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