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In celebration of its 30th anniversary, London Art Fair invited Art UK to stage an exhibition created from the nation’s public art collections. Each of the five artists invited to take part were encouraged to make a personal selection of five works from the Art UK website.

Ars longa, vita brevis

Ars longa, vita brevis 1900

Ralph Hedley (1848–1913)

South Shields Museum and Art Gallery

Maybe unsurprisingly, given his interests, Collishaw’s selection takes a dark look at a shady world of murder and violence, with strong sexual undertones. The works chosen cover over a century of painting, from William Orpen in 1905 to Avis Underwood in 2010, and have been installed in a formation determined by Collishaw himself.

The Spanish Woman

The Spanish Woman 1905

William Orpen (1878–1931)

Leeds Museums and Galleries

Collishaw’s own work tends to envelop the viewer in a twilight world poised between the alluring and the revolting, the familiar and the shocking, the poetic and the morbid. With a visual language that embraces diverse media, including painting, photography and sculpture, Collishaw’s work draws us in with its seductive qualities then promptly repels us; a repulsion triggered not by what we see but by our innate response to it and the subjective narratives that we each bring to visual imagery. His selection here similarly draws us in with its old-fashioned romanticism but the subject and titles of some of the works themselves paint a different story. Collishaw is interested in imagery’s effect on the subliminal and plays with the tensions between reality and perceived reality. His particular interest in the Victorians and 19th-century Britain, a period of scientific progress coupled with empirical soberness, speaks to similar tensions and anomalies.

Kathleen Soriano, curator, art historian and broadcaster

About the artist: Mat Collishaw (b.1966, Nottingham, lives in London)

Mat Collishaw

Mat Collishaw

wet collodion portrait

Mat Collishaw is a key figure in the important generation of British artists who emerged from Goldsmiths’ College in the late 1980s. He participated in ‘Freeze’ (1988) and since his first solo exhibition in 1990 has exhibited widely internationally. Recent solo exhibitions include ‘Mat Collishaw’, The New Art Gallery Walsall (2015), ‘In Camera’, Library of Birmingham (2015), ‘Black Mirror’, Galleria Borghese, Rome (2014), ‘This Is Not An Exit’, Blain|Southern, London (2013), Bass Museum of Art, Florida (2013); Pino Pascali Museum Foundation, Bari (2013); ‘Mat Collishaw: Afterimage’, Arter, Istanbul (2013) and ‘Magic Lantern’ at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (2010).

Recent group exhibitions include ‘Vanitas – Fashion and Art’, Bass Museum of Art, Miami (2014), ‘Back to Eden’, Museum of Biblical Art, New York (2014), ‘Victoriana’, The Guildhall Art Gallery, London (2013), ‘GLASSTRESS: White Light/White Heat’: Contemporary Artists & Glass, collateral Event of 55th Venice Biennale, Venice (2013); ‘Made in Britain’, Contemporary Art from the British Council Collection, Benaki Museum, Athens (2012); ‘Out of Focus: Photography’, Saatchi Gallery, London; ‘Otherwordly – Optical Delusions and Small Realities’, Museum of Arts and Design, New York (2012); and the 12th International Istanbul Biennial, Istanbul in 2011. Collishaw’s work is in several public collections including Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego; Museum of Old and New Art, Tasmania and Tate, London.

'Art of the Nation: Five Artists Choose' is kindly supported by our sponsors

'Art of the Nation: Five Artists Choose' is kindly supported by our sponsors