Its one of our favourite spaces, not least as the balance between the temporary exhibition galleries and the super Garman Ryan collection (recently augmented with a gift from Clive Beardsmore) makes for a richer experience than some. So it was off to the Black Country for me and my pal recently with the prospect of a Mat Collishaw retrospective ahead of us. To be honest I wasn’t especially interested ahead of time as he’s an artist that’s never really been on my radar and what I’d seen not particularly pushed my buttons. But sometimes you get caught out right and proper…and this was one of those occasions. The temporary galleries were a treat with several bodies of work given good space and some over for a selection of other pieces. Up on the top floor the space is devoted to a single work of which more in a moment.
Collishaw draws heavily on historical forms in most of his work and this can seem heavy and laboured in the wrong hands but he does it really well whether its Dutch still life in the context of prisoners last meals on death row or Georges de la Tour lighting and single mothers and child portraits.
I especially loved the Venal Muse vitrines where flowers have been infected with disease…the deliciously queasy side of eroticism further emphasised by the large scale photo pieces of his Insecticide series…exotic looking moths and other bugs swished between glass…and glowing colourfully from the walls like shattered stained glass.
But perhaps its that installation up on the top of the building that steals the show. A beautifully rendered 3D generated tableau of the Massacre of The Innocents turned into a large zoetrope that whips up a gruesome orgy of violence. You’ll get the idea from this video on the artist’s website but trust me go and commune with it face to face for a spooky, almost macabre experience you’ll not forget.