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The optical wonder of The Centrifugal Soul by Mat Collishaw at Blain|Southern, London

Looking like a mix between an elaborate multi-tiered wedding cake and a spinning UFO, this zoetrope by Mat Collishaw is a fantastic piece of art, and it’s currently on display in Hanover Square, central London.

The work is on view at the Blain|Southern gallery until the 27th May 2017 as part of an exhibition presenting new sculpture, installation and paintings.

When you walk into the darkened gallery, it takes a while to take in the beauty of Albion, a ghost-like, laser-scanned 3D projection of an ancient Major Oak in Sherwood Forest, Nottingham.

Although the tree has a hollow rotten trunk, it remains intact thanks to an elaborate system of scaffolding, first installed in the Victorian era, with the image representing, “a living object that is trapped in perpetuity to present the illusion of life.”

Around the corner – and set in an equally dark environment- is the Centrifugal Soul sculpture, which takes the form of a zoetrope, a pre-film animation device that produces the illusion of motion through rapid rotation and stroboscopic light.

Slowly the lights come on and the sculpture is revealed.

Close up detail.

The gallery offers more information about the work:

In The Centrifugal Soul, Mat Collishaw’s forthcoming exhibition at Blain|Southern, the artist presents new sculpture, installation and paintings. Drawing on various forms of illusion, the exhibition explores ideas of superficial truth and the erosive effect of our primal urges for visual supremacy.

Collishaw worked with evolutionary psychologist Geoffrey Miller – whose theory is that the origins of art stem from natural instincts of courtship and reproduction – to produce the title work and centrepiece of the exhibition. The Centrifugal Soul is a sculpture in the form of a zoetrope, a pre-film animation device that produces the illusion of motion through rapid rotation and stroboscopic light.

The zoetrope animates scenes of bowerbirds and birds of paradise as they perform elaborate mating rituals. The work offers a captivating demonstration of how aesthetic diversity has evolved through sexual selection and also reflects the artist’s ongoing examination of our insatiable appetite for visual stimulation.

Collishaw’s sculpture embodies Miller’s idea that evolution has created an inescapable drive to be noticed above the visual competition, feeding our need for self-promotion.


See the work

The Centrifugal Soul is on exhibition at the Blain|Southern, a contemporary art gallery based in London and Berlin.

4 Hanover Square, London, W1S 1BP (5 mins walk from Oxford Circus tube)

Opening hours:
Monday to Friday: 10am – 6pm
Saturday: 10am – 5pm