Something evil is blooming in a shady corner of Kew Gardens. Poisonous plants produce red fleshy flowers and sinister insects pretend to be harmless petals – or are the petals posing as insects? Mat Collishaw has created a creepy and beautiful, horrible and exquisite cabinet of botanical curiosities that puts the shock and sensation back into British modern art.
This clever, complex meditation on all the ways we humans represent and imagine the natural world contrasts brutally with Damien Hirst’s flower paintings, recently unveiled at Frieze art fair. It’s as if these two artists, who were contemporaries at Goldsmiths in the 1980s, have made some devilish bargain: Hirst got the money and Collishaw the brains, passion and integrity. Where Hirst now paints inane floral scenes, Collishaw digs deep into the gardens of the mind to leave you thrilled and moved.