The bed, the shark, the bullet: Besides his classmates from Goldsmiths College, Sarah Lucas, Tracy Emin and Damien Hirst, 46-year-old Mat Collishaw made the YBA movement the pivotal junction of the art world in the 90s.
At the legendary first Freeze exhibition he showed “Bullet Hole,” his best-known work until today—a large photograph, showing a head being fractured by a bullet. It paved the way for subsequent work dealing with controversial subjects such as diseases, transience, sex and violence. In July 1988, the legendary art show that was mainly organized by the 23 year old Hirst staged in London’s Docklands becoming one of those magical moments in modern art history where the likes of Charles Saatchi attended the students show and purchased art works of Collishaw and others. Since his debut, Collishaw, in contrast to his highly visible peers, always flew a bit under the radar.
A fusion of mystic symbolism and modern video technology, butterflies, Victorian science and imagery inspired by pathology books is till this moment the characteristics of his work. His fascination with popular source material and textbooks was part of the YBA revolt against abstraction.
Before we met Mat at his beautiful house in Southeast London, I read on the website of his gallery Blain|Southern a strong quote he once made about his art: “I wanted to punish the viewer … I wanted to supply content that had a high level of social responsibility. Not things that you could look at in a lazy or uncommitted way.”
With all this information making a impressions on us, we were pleasantly surprised about the friendly and well-mannered gentleman that welcomed us in his bright and spacious home just around the corner from Goldsmiths College.