Mat Collishaw @ Blain|Southern

Contemporary and Old Art Reviews

Mat Collishaw @ Blain|Southern

Postby CAP » Sun Mar 10, 2013 11:04 pm

High concept photorealism of close-ups of glossy magazine pages removed and folded to contain cocaine hits (presumably the glossy paper provides a brief, non-absorbent and firm envelope) but now discarded after use, leaving only a slight residue of unsniffed or unsniffable particles, or perhaps treasured by a grateful, if somewhat sentimental artist. Who can say? Artists are notorious hoarders. The press release assures us that they are all based on ‘facsimiles’, but in the circumstances it would, wouldn’t it?

I like to imagine a more personal involvement by the artist. Actually, one doesn't really notice the tiny residue caught in the folds of the depicted pages from a certain distance, certainly not when there are school excursions present. It’s more the overall mesh of diagonal folds evenly composed within a rectangular format. The works are mainly large (225 X 275cm-ish) and come in an array of attractive monochromes and look like ads for something involving extreme magnification (washing powders? Shampoos? Insecticides? Ironing tips?) The second room offers more elaborate variations. I suppose they advertise a certain lifestyle. For those of us who do not partake of this lifestyle, one can’t help but notice a certain craftsmanship in the scrupulously squared and regular folds. I expect pushers have to practice this, there may even be classes. There may well be formalists among them.

As for the predominant imagery drawn from magazines like Vogue and Tatler, I found my suspension of disbelief sorely tested. Is it really plausible that today’s efficient drug dealer is so fixated on women’s fashion? The pages of many car and motorcycle journals offer equal quality in glossy pages, as do more reputable home and garden magazines, cooking, caravanning, computing, hobbies and even fine art – yes art magazines! – and many other quality publications. All surely offer a suitably stiff and glossy page for the busy but discerning dealer. Yet the artist blithely ignores this sizeable market segment for reasons one can only suppose are personal, more integral to the meaning of the work. It is clearly the damage done to pages concerning grooming and make-up tips that strike the artist as particularly poignant; that best suggest the relentless consumerist addiction to his life – oops - I mean ‘our’ lives.

Equally, it may hint at the identity of the artist’s ‘fictional’ dealer. If one supposes the artist’s source – nay, inspiration! – to be female, the work takes on a more familiar reading. Not only does it explain themes in ‘her’ disposable magazine collection, but the transactions themselves take on a distinctly sexual metaphor. Exploitation and addiction are recurrent themes in the artist’s work and in this series the ‘ecstasy’ or release proves disappointingly brief, insubstantial, subsequent enslavement or dedication all but unbearable. Ah, we’ve all been there. We won’t mention the M word. But the assignment of dominant and submissive roles here only builds on an abiding suspicion to female inconstancy in past work. And it’s easy to imagine the artist’s eyes welling up with tears, his voice growing hoarse as he lovingly smoothes out another improvised wrapper, studies the details for another Nivea seven-day moisturiser plan with rueful forbearance and counts the cost. Is that all there is to a relationship? Actually the show is titled This is Not an Exit – sounding equal parts Brett Easton Ellis and Johnny Rotten – but again, tying in with earlier work concerned with imprisonment and worship. One concludes the artist enjoys a rather extreme view of sex.

More puzzling, is why works that draw so heavily upon photography, are actually painted on such an imposing scale or painted at all, for that matter? The essential folds and drug residue to the magazine pages are effectively captured with photography; would be available to the spectator at far more modest scale, even 1:1. Then again, subtlety was never in the YBA lexicon. In an age where digital photography and imposing resolutions allow prints to rival murals and gain increasing respect in the work of Sherman, Gursky or Demand amongst others, there seems little to be gained from demonstrating the patient skills of an old school illustrator. But Collishaw clearly senses some uncertainty in his handling of the content, the need to explicitly align it with painting and a longer tradition, if only in the closing stages. This telling inadequacy also explains the need to make such a big deal of a rather small and passing excitement. Again, one senses we are on personal territory here. It is naïve and comically backfires, of course, since the room left to demonstrate some integral painterliness dwindles to tiny dabs chasing greatly magnified paper texture, to be detected only on closer acquaintance, a disinterest in print qualities beyond their content, an inability to discern pictorial content beyond photography or print.

Ironically, the work loses much of its impetus for this unfortunate compromise. Just when the artist thought he was connecting with tradition, tradition proves least material. Paint is not necessarily the salient feature of great pictures. Some consolation might be that the artist is then cast as hopeless prisoner, slave to a craving that she-of-the-endless-supply-of-fashion-magazines can never sate for long, that drives him to fanatical efforts only to be lost upon the wandering spectator, the idle speculator. He is the only one that is 'blown' away by his own folly. He is a comic rather than tragic figure, his trials not widely shared. I had fun with this show, I could see the joke.
User avatar
Posts: 1081
Joined: Thu Jan 06, 2011 11:38 am
Location: Off-world

Return to Art Reviews

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests