Works by celebrated British contemporary artist Mat Collishaw are on display in the Queens House
in Greenwich. Hanging alongside the iconic Armada Portrait of Elizabeth I, the exhibition focuses on Collishaws photographic Insecticide series (2006-2014), and marks the first phase of the artists works to be presented in the Queens Presence Chamber. The second phase, a new commission in response to the Armada Portrait, will be revealed in September 2018.
Known for his visual explorations of humanitys darker side, Collishaws works often reference myth and art history. In Insecticide, butterflies - symbols of the fragility of life - are crushed and enlarged to an exaggerated scale. The works capture the lifeless bodies of the insects, suspended in darkness and yet illuminated by the vibrant hues of their torn wings. The bright and mesmerising colours are in contrast with the dark nature of the subject, with the splayed bodies, broken antennae and dislocated limbs revealing the brutality and violence behind their extermination.
The intense detail, lighting and simple motif of a figure set against a dark background is something shared by these photographs and Elizabethan portraiture. The velvety wings and iridescent tones of the Insecticides echo the sumptuous texture of Queen Elizabeths dress and its opulent embellishment. The iconic image of the Armada Portrait resonates strongly with Collishaws work, the beauty and seeming immortality of the ageing queen appearing just as fragile and fleeting as the butterflys wing.
Collishaw was inspired to create the Insecticide series following the birth of his son, after which his home had to be cleared of an infestation of bugs. He collected the remains of the dead insects, squashed them between 35mm slides, and scanned them at high resolutions, projecting the resulting images 12 feet high. Through digital manipulation, he amplified the microscopic detail, intensifying the colours and revealing facets of beauty that trick the viewer into initially seeing an alluring image, before noticing the repellent nature and suffering of the subject.
Also on view is Fading Memories of the Sun (2013), like the photographs from Insecticide, it depicts an act of violence, through the hypnotic image of flowers engulfed in flames. In both series, the visual impact of these moments of death and destruction highlight the fleeting fragility of life and beauty.
The works by Mat Colllishaw are on display at the Queens House from 13 April 23 September 2018. New work created by Mat Collishaw in response to the Armada Portrait will go on display in the Queens House in September 2018. The presentation of Collishaws works is part of a three-year Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) programme of events and exhibitions related to the portrait and Elizabeth I that will be taking place until spring 2020.