Artists / Marcus Coates


Marcus Coates took up one of director Adam Sutherland's first artist-in-residencies, and has subsequently built a significant and widely exhibited body of work around the relationship between man and nature.

As a keen ornithologist and naturalist, Marcus is aware of the limitations in our understanding of non-human life. The most comprehensive studies into the behavioural patterns of animals barely begin to allow us into the minds of their subjects, inevitably falling back on clichés of human reasoning and projection. By making ironic and absurdist attempts to merge himself with the psyches of animals, Marcus illustrates this impossibility whilst throwing our regard back onto ourselves, asking where this impulse to penetrate the other comes from, and what we might hope to achieve by it.

For his photograph 'Goshawk' (1999) Marcus employed the assistance of foresters who helped him to fasten himself to a high branch near the top of a Scots pine. Goshawks tend to choose such lofty vantage points as perches, from where they can survey the ground for prey. In a video work 'Sparrow Hawk Bait' (1999, 1'), he placed himself further down the food chain. Attaching dead birds to his head, he ran through the forest in an attempt to excite the attentions of the sparrow hawk, provoking the predator in the hope of empathising with its prey.

Other works saw him de-romanticising the perceived moral and spiritual purity of animals; his video 'Out of Season' (2000, 10') showed a football fan chanting, "Who the fuckin' 'ell are you?" into the trees of the forest around him. While singing birds may seem to add to the tranquillity of the pastoral scene, they might just as well be yelling like soccer thugs at other birds in defence of their territory.

Marcus has subsequently built a sizeable reputation, with many inclusions in group surveys and was commissioned by Channel 4 for a revised version of ‘Dawn Chorus’. He is renowned in the Grizedale office for being one of the artists who never credits us.

Marcus created a new piece for 'The Land We Live In, The Land We Left Behind' at Hauser & Wirth Somerset, performing in an apple-bedecked costume in the Anchorhold and contributing other previous works to the show.

Marcus' first monograph, 'Marcus Coates' can be purchased online from us here.