GrandLife Interviews: Mat Collishaw – New Works
Co-founded by Damien Hirst, Other Criteria is well-known for its support of an eclectic array of known and emerging artists.
Producing distinctive artworks, art publications and limited editions, the space is a vestibule of creativity and an exciting an innovative hub for the art scene in London.
Mat Collishaw’s work is spectacular. It is unique, dark, technically brilliant and captivating, and his subject matter is diverse to say the least.
His current show features three separate bodies of work; Last Meal On Death Row (a series of photographs of recreated final meals of in-mates on death row), Insecticide (a new addition to the series of photographs which he started in 2006), and Innercity Inhalers (glass replicas of plastic smoking bongs).
Upon speaking with Mat, we gained a better insight into the artist and his fascinating career.
GL: ‘New Works’ on show at Other Criteria at the moment includes; Insecticide, Last Meal On Death Row and Innercity Inhalers (all of which were amazing). I appreciate that you use multiple mediums in your various works. How do you come to create such varied work relatively simultaneously?
MC: Thanks! I knew I was going to hang the dark and somber last meals in the mausoleum like space at the back of the gallery and wanted something much lighter to balance it with, glass seemed the most obvious medium to achieve this in. In addition to that, I decided to make recepticles which were designed to channel air or smoke i.e. bongs, which are essentially a way of controlling these transient elements.They also mirrored the mass produced consumption of food and drink. You get coke cans in the last meals and coke bottles in the inhalers.
GL: A lot of your work or subject matter is somewhat grimy, or shows a more dirty and sinister side of humanity. Are you more interested in the horrid and unattractive traits of people, or does it just make for more interesting work?
MC: I think the oyster needs the grit to produce the pearl right? I try to incorporate a wide spectrum of elements, as it would seem fraudulent to deliberately omit things because they have a lowly or abhorrent status. I think most people are drawn equally to squalor as they are to glamour. It holds a fascination, and with art works they don’t actually have to get involved, they only have to revolve their eyeballs to have a look, so it’s a relatively harmless practice.
GL: Are you constantly creating, or does it come and go? What does it usually take for you to become inspired?
MC: I think you’ve got to be subconsciouly looking at all times. Making little notes, mentally, or writing things down & taking pictures. Generally I try to match an idea I have with a method of execution that’s sympathetic to it. Sometimes things arrive fully formed, sometimes they evolve. Often you’ll find something when you are on the way towards something else.
GL: Having studied at Goldsmiths and pairing up with some of the most regarded and interesting artists of our generation (Mat was in a relationship with Tracey Emin for 5 years and is a collaborator and friend of Damien Hirst), do you feel pressure to succeed as an artist? Are you motivated by money and success, and how difficult is it to work as an artist, be an artist, and maintain the life you have created?
MC: I think all of us wanted to succeed. Most of us didn’t have the luxury of doing art for leisure. Financially it had to work otherwise all production stops and the games over. Keeping a studio running and producing work isn’t cheap, so you constantly have to be aware of the business side of things. As far as success goes, that’s all great but I don’t spend much time jumping through hoops to get medals. The art world’s made up of many individuals each with their own egos, psychologies, insecurities etc. It’s not an empirical world like the olympics where everything is judged in an even manner, so you can’t really take your success (or lack of it) too personally.
GL: What have been your most proud moments as an artist, and which of your works do you value the highest?
MC: Asked me what I’m ashamed of! That’d be an interesting question…(laughs)
GL: Who of your peers provide you with the greatest inspiration and motivation?
MC: I talk to Damien (Hirst), Sarah (Lucas) and Tracey (Emin) still, here and there. We don’t discuss art in great detail, but they all still have a great mixture of dedication and irreverence.
GL: Lastly, where do you see the next 5 – 10 years taking you, and what do you think will change in your world as an artist over this time?
MC: I don’t mind where the years take me, as long as I think the work’s good and getting better. I think an artist is never happier than when they’re on their own in the studio and they look at a work they’re making and think ‘actually that’s not bad…’
The future? More Internet art? God knows – I’ve got one foot in that world so not too worried. I am currently making oil paintings though. Next horizon for me is Blain southern London in feb 2013.
GL: Thanks very much Mat!
Check out Mat Collishaw’s work for sale at https://www.othercriteria.com/ .