Because, for the second time in a year, Mat Collishaw has taken the taken a complex concept and distilled it to its most breathtakingly beautiful essence. Earlier this year he constructed a facade, punctuated with windows upon which rapturous images of wild animals and exotic fauna were rear-projected (bear with me, it looked better than it sounds). Exhibited at the BFI, the Young British Artist and former paramour of Tracey Emin, has moved onto one of the other great British institutions.
Magic Lantern is a zoetrope of momentous scale. You know a zoetrope; a succession of images animate at the turn of a wheel with peephole slats. Collishaw's though is of grand scope at the museum's highest point. Luminescent to the point of heart-rending beauty, the work comes alive at dusk each evening, with hand-crafted fluttering moths shining like a beacon into the night.
I have stated in print before that I would find it nearly impossible to fall in love with, or to, a Mat Collishaw piece but I will, now, happily recant. Like an artist with secure in his ability he is experimenting in form and concept. A site-specific work, this piece is quite possibly the finest single new artwork that you will see this year. A return to Gothic Romanticism, in one of my favourite places in the world. Spend your day sitting in awe of the Raphael Cartoons on the ground floor and exit the museum at night with this in your wake, then be prepared to hand your soul over to magnificent, exquisite grace. Up against the seasonal snow that we are having this winter, we've no defence...Simply resplendent.
Magic Lantern by Mat Collishaw will be visible in the V&A Cupola (from dusk) and the John Madejski Garden (between 10.00 - 17.45) until 27 March 2011.
images: Lantern Moth; Moth; Lantern; all Mat Collishaw. Courtesy Victoria & Albert Museum.