Key facts about the artist

The Lamp of Sacrifice, 286 Places of Worship, Edinburgh 2004
The Lamp of Sacrifice, 286 Places of Worship, Edinburgh (2004)

'I have no problem coming up with ideas, but I have a problem with good ones and there are a few mis-starts.'
Public spaces and architecture
Turner Prize nominee 2007
The Glasgow School of Art


Video: Art in Scotland TV - Nathan Coley: You Imagine What You Desire, 2014

Video: TateShots Edinburgh - Nathan Coley, 2010

Video: TateShots - Nathan Coley, 2007

About Nathan's work

Throughout his work, Nathan Coley expresses curiosity about how we relate to public spaces and architecture. He is also interested in what we believe. His research informs drawings, photographs, sculptures and videos that often contain words or phrases. 

His work There Will Be No Miracles Here (2006) explores belief. The phrase is spelled out in lit bulbs on bare metal scaffolding. The brightness and size of There Will Be No Miracles Here make it a spectacle, while the gaps in its frame include its chosen backdrop as part of the work. The factor of surprise in this piece, like much of the artist’s work, also expresses an element of humour. The words seem like a regulation Coley adopted them from a sign that was once erected in a village in seventeenth-century France by order of the King. 

The Lamp of Sacrifice, 286 Places of Worship, Edinburgh 2004 is an installation of sculptures made up of all 286 religious and spiritual buildings that were listed in the 2004 Edinburgh Yellow Pages directory under ‘places of worship’. A mammoth task, Coley had previously undertaken a similar work with The Lamp of Sacrifice, 161 Places of Worship, Birmingham 2000. In Birmingham, Coley made the models over a course of seven weeks in front of visitors to the Ikon Gallery. 

Coley adopted the idea of an architectural ‘Lamp of Sacrifice’ from the Victorian artist and critic John Ruskin (1819–1900), who wrote in his famed 1849 essay The Seven Lamps of Architecture: ‘It is not the church we want, but the sacrifice … .’ Coley explores Ruskin’s idea that buildings and architecture are two separate things – one being functional and the other art. Coley strips all religious insignia from the buildings and reconstructs them to scale in simple brown cardboard. He unites the buildings as one group or community. As fewer people go to church and the diversity of different areas shifts, the cardboard models offer a playful and abstract perspective on the buildings. Physically they represent buildings but emotionally they are religious architecture and in equal measure baffle and enlighten people. Nathan Coley doesn’t provide answers but he does inspire those who see his work to ask questions.


Nathan Coley (born 1967 in Glasgow) studied at The Glasgow School of Art from 1985 to 1989. From 1998 to 2005 he lived and worked in Dundee. In 2007 he was shortlisted for the Turner Prize. His work is represented in many international public and private collections. He currently lives and works in Glasgow.

More information

Lisa Le Feuvre, Nathan Coley, Hatje Cantz, Berlin, 2014

Andrea Schlieker and Andrew McLean, Nathan Coley, The Mount Stuart Trust, Isle of Bute, 2006


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