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I Like to get my Loving when I got it on my Mind 2003

Mat Collishaw (born 1966, Nottingham, England, UK)

Throughout his career the artist has brought together a powerful mix of exotic imagery, frequently using digital and video-based techniques to create works which involve the viewer in a number of intricately entwined layers of meaning. At its most superficial level, this work is a rather beautiful object; a folding wooden screen, borrowing its style appropriately from art nouveau decoration and fitted with plain translucent glass, glows with the image of a proudly strutting peacock, its fanned tail filling the screen. Collishaw’s strutting bird is a twenty-first century reminder of the longstanding status of the peacock – beauty matched with ill-fortune, incorruptible flesh entwined with Aesthetic decadence. From Ruskin’s observation 'Remember that the most beautiful things in the world are the most useless; peacocks and lilies for instance' [The Stones of Venice (1851-3)], through Darwin, who, admitting that the sight of a peacock feather could make him sick, wrote in The Descent of Man (1871) that their plumage makes the birds ‘more like works of art than of nature’, to Beardsley’s notorious illustrations for Wilde’s Salomé (1894) and on to the stained glass peacock panels of Elvis Presley’s Graceland mansion in Memphis, the peacock’s reputation has hung in the balance. Collishaw’s work adds a further twist to this, the title of the piece I like to get my Loving when I get it on my Mind overlaying the unalloyed beauty of the bird with a powerful, though latent, sense of sexual intent, of almost threatening purpose. Collishaw’s long engagement with the ambiguous relationship between the erotic and the pornographic, between the richly decorative and the powerfully symbolic elements of the art of the past, particularly exemplified in high Victorian culture, comes to the fore in this piece. A decorative screen such as this may be seen to have a duality of function in the world for which it was made, offering a refuge behind which modesty may be maintained – an expectation of privacy, if only fleeting and partial – and yet also a tantalising possibility of exposure – when viewed from the other side. The peacock, beautiful, strutting and assertive, projects his presence and announces his intentions with display; the ambiguities of seduction, of hide and seek, of power and of submission are here for all to see. A visually rich, powerful, and yet intimate work well suited to the Hunterian’s collections, I like to get my Loving… is immediately engaging and intriguing to audiences, resonating immediately with the Gallery’s outstanding holdings and displays of the work of the great 19th century painter and designer, James McNeill Whistler. The work has an almost knowing relationship to two major features of the Gallery’s displays; Blue and Silver: Screen, with Old Battersea Bridge (c. 1872) and the great chalk cartoon for the mural in Whistler’s Peacock Room of 1876.

Acquisition Details

Acquired from Galerie Cosmic, Paris , 2005
Purchased with funds from the National Collecting Scheme for Scotland which was originated and operated 2003-2006 by the Contemporary Art Society and supported by the National Lottery through the Scottish Arts Council.
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