Mat Collishaw exhibition launches the new Courtyard Gallery at Castle Howard

PUBLISHED: 00:00 20 March 2018

The Centrifugal Soul (detail) 2016 -  Mat Collishaw and Blain Southern - Photo R+mi Chauvin

The Centrifugal Soul (detail) 2016 - Mat Collishaw and Blain Southern - Photo R+mi Chauvin

Photo R+mi Chauvin

An unusual nature-inspired exhibition finds a home at one of Yorkshire’s favourite country houses.

GASCONADES (Beastmode) 2018 - Mat Collishaw and BlainSouthernGASCONADES (Beastmode) 2018 - Mat Collishaw and BlainSouthern

As an arts venue, Castle Howard is probably best known for the traditional portraits and classical marble sculptures which adorn walls and hallways around the historic house, but visitors during the 2018 season will also enjoy a thoroughly modern display of art from leading UK contemporary artist Mat Collishaw, in a new gallery created in the Courtyard.

The exhibition, called The Centrifugal Soul, builds on a 2017 show at Blain|Southern gallery in London, with a combination of sculpture, installation and paintings. The centrepiece is a sculpture called The Centrifugal Soul, a zoetrope which produces the illusion of motion through rapid rotation and stroboscopic light. This technology, which was the precursor to modern film-making, animates scenes of bowerbirds and birds of paradise as they perform their elaborate mating rituals.

The piece was developed by Collishaw through his work with evolutionary psychologist, Geoffrey Miller, who believes that the origins of art stem from natural instincts of courtship and evolution. Miller suggests that evolution has created an inescapable drive to be noticed above the visual competition, feeding our need for self-promotion, and the resulting artwork is truly a feast for the eyes. The room in which The Centrifugal Soul is displayed is darkened so that light becomes an integral part of the artwork, and this theme continues into the other rooms, where a new body of work continues the examination of visual power play. A series of trompe l’oeil paintings of British garden birds tethered to perches, called GASCONADES, reference the 17th century fashion for commissioning portraits of prestige pets, made popular through Carel Fabritius’ painting The Goldfinch (1654).

Collishaw’s original exhibition has been tweaked for Castle Howard, with new GASCONADES works being shown for the first time, including one which features the hawfinch – a bird that caused great excitement earlier this year when a rare colony was spotted feeding at the Yorkshire Arboretum in the grounds of Castle Howard.

GASCONADES (Hustle) 2018 -  Mat Collishaw and BlainSouthernGASCONADES (Hustle) 2018 - Mat Collishaw and BlainSouthern

‘We are absolutely delighted to welcome Mat Collishaw to Castle Howard, and are excited to be hosting the premiere of some of his new works,’ says Nicholas Howard. ‘It is wonderful to be able to open the Courtyard Gallery with an exhibition from such a prestigious artist, and we know that visitors are going to love the colourful, nature-inspired works that they will see here.’ Mat Collishaw is a key figure in an important generation of contemporary British artists. His work includes sculpture, photography, film and installation, and he has exhibited in numerous solo shows around the world. His virtual reality artwork, Thresholds, is currently being hosted as part of an exhibition at the Science & Media Museum in Bradford, open until May 7th.

The new Courtyard Gallery has been created in a former storage space in the Courtyard at Castle Howard.

Admission is free for Castle Howard ticket holders, and the exhibition will be in situ until the autumn. For more information, visit

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