In 2011 the Analix Forever Art Gallery in Geneva hosted a photographic exhibition with a difference.
Mat Collishaw, 2011. Cornelius Gross
Artist Mat Collishaw’s innovative body of work was a photographic record of the last meals of death row prisoners.
Images for “Last Meal on Death Row” make great use of chiaroscuro, pools of soft light illuminating the subject whilst the background and surrounding environment is allowed to fall into deep shadow.
The contrast between light and dark creates not only a sense of drama but also a sense of depth within the images.
Named after the person who requested the meal, each of the 13 images is a simple, but effective, composition devoid of any props and portraying only the main subject.
Borrowing terminology from cinematography, the “crushed blacks” of the perhaps foreboding background are reminiscent of the style of Willem Kalf, the 17th century Dutch artist from whom Collishaw draws much inspiration.
Kalf regularly used a black background in order to emphasise the colours and textures of the subjects he painted. An effect Collishaw has recreated exceptionally well.
That Collishaw’s work is heavily influenced by the still-life paintings of the 17th century is very apparent. The image “Jonathan Nobles” has a definite painterly aesthetic – to the point it deceives the viewer’s eye as to whether it is a painting or a photograph.
Mat Collishaw, 2011. Jonathan Nobles
Willem Kalf, c. 1660. Still-life with Fruit, Goblet and Salver
This image, compared alongside Kalf’s “Still-life with Fruit, Goblet and Salver” (c. 1660), demonstrates very clearly Collishaw’s ability to define and portray in a photograph those characteristics which give paintings their visual appeal.
There is a great deal in Collishaw’s work which can be used to shape my own practice. “Still-life with Citrus Fruits” is one of the best examples to date of my ability to create the kind of chiaroscuro seen in many of the old masters and in Collishaw’s “Last Meal on Death Row”, but there is still ample opportunity for improvement and this is apparent when my work is evaluated alongside Collishaw’s.
Morris, 2016. Still-life with Citrus Fruits