Black Mirror

Galleria Borghese, Rome

8 October 2014 – 11 January 2015

Mat Collishaw is one of the ten selected artists that feature in Contemporary Assignments, a project created in conjunction with the British Council as part of The Great Shows series at Galleria Borghese. The ten exhibitions aim to complement the experience of viewing the collection’s masterpieces by incorporating the interventions of contemporary artists.

Collishaw is showing four works, including three video pieces inspired by the paintings of Caravaggio, alongside one of his celebrated zoetropes, which has been inspired by The Massacre of the Innocents paintings.

The frames that contain the video works are made from Murano glass, which was chosen because it can be heated and, as with painting, its manipulated and final form is the distillation of a moment. The three works are all presented on freestanding structures built into three different rooms on the first floor of Villa Borghese.

Says Collishaw: “The three works based on the Caravaggio paintings attempt to reflect a glimmer of the scene set up in his studio. The lowly figures who have been asked to adopt a pose and stand with a few props are transformed into religious icons. These paintings are paradoxical because the models used are relatively mundane and humble, yet the composition and the lighting invests them with an almost supernatural aura.”

Collishaw hopes that the works will invoke the creepy sensation of experiencing a real flesh and blood person being transformed into a cipher. The characters appear and disappear before us, they lurk in that shadowy space behind the mirror like souls trapped in purgatory.

Of the zoetrope, Collishaw says: “The Massacre of the Innocents paintings function in a very different way to the Caravaggio works I've selected. His are solitary and melancholic, whereas the latter thrive on the repetition of characters spread across the canvas. They are designed to excite our emotions and to keep our eyes moving around the surface in an agitated manner without intimacy and with no focal point. The zoetrope capitalises on this, literally repeating characters to create an overwhelming orgy of violence that is simultaneously appalling and compelling.” He concludes: “The works are meditations on our fondness for contemplating images of mortality or death and the different ways of manipulating the viewer as they do this.”

Other participating artists included in the British Council's project are Alberto Giacometti, Giulio Paolini, Hans Op de Beeck, Candida Höfer, Vedovamazzei, Nedko Solakov, and Georg Baselitz.

For more information visit