Interview: artist Nathan Coley discusses the revival of his Lamp of Sacrifice show for Generation
'I don’t have faith in any religion. They’re all as bad as each other'
Faith, and the lack of it, is everywhere in Nathan Coley’s work. For his contribution to Generation, GoMA has chosen to restage The Lamp of Sacrifice, 286 Places of Worship, Edinburgh, for which Coley built miniature cardboard models of every church, synagogue, mosque and temple in Scotland’s capital, then placed them side by side in a kind of deconsecrated village.
‘It’s always nice meeting an old friend you haven’t spoken to for many years,’ Coley says of The Lamp of Sacrifice, which has lain in storage for the past decade, since it was first shown at the Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh. ‘I’m feeling excited about it being in Glasgow, and I’m interested in how it transfers to the west coast, even though the metaphor will remain the same.’
The Lamp of Sacrifice takes its title from John Ruskin’s The Seven Lamps of Architecture, in which he stated that ‘it is not the church we want, but the sacrifice’.
‘Ruskin looked at what he saw as the differences between buildings and architecture,’ Coley explains, ‘in that buildings are purely functional, but architecture has meaning in some way. So the pyramids are architecture for how they were made rather than what they look like. The fact that four generations of slaves built them gives them their meaning. By sacrificing my time and my labour to build these things out of cardboard, which is a material with no value, these places of worship become mine.’
The thread running through Coley’s work is plain to see. ‘All the works are exactly the same thing,’ he says. ‘Is that discussion about faith and religion because I was born and bred in Glasgow? I can’t deny that, but as a child I was aware of the divide. I don’t have faith in any religion. They’re all as bad as each other.’
Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow, until Sun 1 Feb, 2015.