Within the space we are faced with three works each entitled Annihilated Confessions 2007. Exquisite and immediately seductive, the framed black and white photographs of ornate confession boxes are obliterated by a rectangle of black spray paint administered to the surface of the glass, which floats in front of the image. Although concealed, we are able to partially glimpse the photograph beneath the surface, providing a tension in which we are offered and simultenously denied access to the image. Wealth and ascendancy are implied by the lavishly ornamental nature of the confession boxes, whose symbolic weight and functioning is premised on absolution being made in private before an assumed power not, in fact, visible during the correspondence. In an age in which apologies are often played out in view of the media and motivated by a desire to maintain public image rather than genuine atonement, the works raise questions about the role of the confession box in modern society.
The pristine yet ultimately neutral beauty of the works’ surface bring to mind the reductive strategies deployed in Ad Reinhardt’s black monochrome works which were motivated by the idea that painting should express nothing but the very essence of art. Furthermore, by using spray paint as a medium Coley references street graffiti, a visciral means by which the marginal and the transient assert their identity. The obliteration of the image might also be seen to metaphorically register the politics of censorship as well as the desecretion of holy monuments and icons, triggered by the conflict between religious beliefs and the instability of territorial boundaries. The Annihilated Confessions ask us to consider whether spaces exist beyond the reach of state jurisdiction or religious doctrine and continue the artist’s interest in fostering an expansive freedom of thought and expression within what he regards as an oppressed world.
Taken from the exhibition brochure for the Turner Prize 2007, Tate Liverpool