A drunken orgy and Zeus's sons: Mat Collishaw's Folly at a pond and banqueting house in Yorkshire

By Culture24 Reporter | 14 June 2016

Set near Ripon in Yorkshire, Mat Collishaw's pair of new installations are set in a banqueting house and over a pond

A photo of artist Mat Collishaw looking at a white sculpture inside the National Trust's Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal
Wild partying and peace collide in Mat Collishaw's Folly at a World Heritage Site in Yorkshire© Kippa Matthews
Seria Ludo was an elitist 18th century drinking club with a name suggesting a lighthearted approach to serious matters. It has been reimagined by Mat Collishaw in the form of a strobe-lit chandelier for his first solo show in Yorkshire, set between the decadent Banqueting House and Temple of Piety at the National Trust’s Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal.

A World Heritage Site, the Abbey grounds are unlikely to witness many installations like this again. The glowing sphere is filled with 186 tiny figures indulging in a drunken orgy, eating, drinking, dancing and fighting. One of them is a swinging monkey.

“There are a lot of buildings around the gardens and I chose two,” says Collishaw. “With the banqueting house I thought making a 3-D zoetrope would be a good idea because it was this sense of being caught up in something and being part of this whole festival of indulgence.

A photo of artist Mat Collishaw looking at a white sculpture inside the National Trust's Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal
© Kippa Matthews
“These buildings symbolise psychological characteristics and function as stage sets for states of merriment and reflection.”

The contemplative half of the concept comes in the form of The Pineal Eye – a sculpture of two facing parabolic mirrors overlooking the site’s Moon Ponds, appearing like an elusive mirage of the Roman depiction of piety, who also appears as a relief on the back wall of the temple.

“I had this little model of the parabolic mirror illusion on my desk for a few years, just wanting to do something with it,” says Collishaw. “I thought the idea of this circular mirror-like shape, with this statue levitating above it, was perhaps something I could work with for the temple of piety because you’ve got the pond and the statue of Neptune in the middle. It’s very similar to the illusion.”

A photo of artist Mat Collishaw looking at a white sculpture inside the National Trust's Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal
© Kippa Matthews
Collishaw’s inspirations are brothers. The eye’s form relates to Apollo, Zeus’s rational son. Dionysus, the thunder god’s other boy, lives on in the wild lust encased within the chandelier.

“I think people have always been drawn to little scenes that are kind of quite illicit, in a way, because you’re kind of a voyeur but you’re being given special access to a scene that actually happens behind closed doors,” suggests Collishaw.

“These works will hopefully seduce viewers in a way that is similar to the principles of pleasure and piety. Both works are optical illusions and reflect on the idea that these states are in a sense illusory; ideas but not actualities, mental states that you can adopt and become absorbed by.”

  • Folly is at Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal until October 30 2016.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

A photo of artist Mat Collishaw looking at a white sculpture inside the National Trust's Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal
© Kippa Matthews
A photo of artist Mat Collishaw looking at a white sculpture inside the National Trust's Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal
© Kippa Matthews
A photo of artist Mat Collishaw looking at a white sculpture inside the National Trust's Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal
© Kippa Matthews
A photo of artist Mat Collishaw looking at a white sculpture inside the National Trust's Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal
© Kippa Matthews
A photo of artist Mat Collishaw looking at a white sculpture inside the National Trust's Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal
© Kippa Matthews
Three installations to see

, Exeter Foundation
Rob Heard, a Somerset artist, has a mission: to personally create the 19,240 shrouded figures to commemorate those Allied servicemen who died that day. July 1-7 2016.

, Cumbria
For the installation, stuff i live with; stuff i love, potter Chris Keenan applies William Morris’ dictum - "have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful" - and presents a selection of his personal “stuff” which, from being looked at, handled and used, makes his domestic life better. July 29 - September 4 2016.

, North Yorkshire
The Spear for Semerwater project, which ties in with Museums at Night, is inspired by Bronze Age rituals and legends like the story of the sunken city. Commissioned by the Dales Countryside Museum and supported by Arts&Heritage, the installation will come alive at dusk with music, fire, food and drink. October 28-29 2016.
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