whitehot | October 2007, Nicolas Deshayes @ RUN Gallery, London
RUN Gallery, 24 Tudor Grove, London
5th October - 4th November 2007
London-based artist Nicolas Deshayes shows a growing sensitivity in this select group of four new sculptures: a compelling mixture of crude first impressions with close-up attention to detail and vice versa. On thick blue casts of plastic bags, arranged in a solid ring, careful seam lines are visible. In other works, Deshayes’ own ‘seams’ are given prominence, lumps of adhesive come into view as one approaches the minimal Dry Representation.
Sometimes it is difficult to place exactly what Deshayes is asking of his audience. He describes his working process as intuitive, and according to the exhibition text expects viewers’ perceptions to be altered, through his odd refashioning and re-placing of ordinary objects. Primordial Furnishings is an awkward representation of a bamboo coffee table with collapsing, naive, clay lava lamp - floppy-formed table legs interlace and the misshapen plexiglass tabletop is ill fitting. In its broken-down appearance, it conjured memories of trawling the streets in East London (actually near to RUN Gallery itself), looking for interesting thrown-out furniture and materials that might come in useful for making art. Initially, attention is deflected back to materials and making processes, rather than concepts.
Dry humour runs through the works on show. Tiny marks in the surface of Spartanic Column suggest leg hair bristling on a gently curving pillar trussed up in shin pads. Reflecting on this, the idea of transformation started to make sense. The work begins to get interesting on a level not dependent on material when one remembers what the ‘real’ world is like. The reality of cold, muscled goalkeeper’s legs in contrast to the pale, stacked version is bracing: perhaps a contemporary version of a classical Greek sculpture, at once reminding us of how imperfect and fleshy we are, and of our power to image a different order of things.
In the same way, the snap, colour and taste of a wholewheat cracker comes into sharp, delicious focus when thinking over the witty Dry Representation - a life size model ryvita wall-mounted on a fake brick. Perhaps there is a mechanism at work here like that in children’s nonsense poetry, where diversions from usual grammar and vocabulary create absorbing new systems, yet serve to reinforce the everyday structures of the world we live in. In this interaction between the real and the altered Deshayes provides an imaginative space where it is possible to wonder about the importance of geometry in a cracker, while chewing on it.
Interview with Nicolas Deshayes:
RH: You've been working and exhibiting prolifically in the last couple of years. Has the experience of continuously making things for shows (making things that you know in advance will have an audience) changed the work at all, or do you make things firstly for your own eyes?
ND: Pressure of making work for more than one show in a very short amount of time, forces you to think on your feet and have faith in your decisions. I think it is important to be instinctive as interesting things come out of this.
The knowledge that an audience will be implicated is as thrilling as it is daunting because of the risk taking involved.
RH: Your making process is usually very hands on and time consuming, do you do most of your thinking through the making of an object, with accident, or is the outcome thoroughly planned?
ND:I tend to develop an idea through drawing so when it comes to making it in object form I already have a pretty clear idea of what it is going to look like. The pieces often combine cast elements, and due to the labour-intensive nature of the mould-making process you often have to know exactly what the piece is going to be.
Finish and detail often change. As for accidents, the only ones that generally arise are structural ones!
RH: You've taken part in international shows and residencies, such as the Hweilan Artists Workshop in Taiwan: has the travelling affected your work? Do you take inspiration from your surroundings?
ND: I am particularly interested in exoticism and the notion of travel (to all dimensions!) so being in a foreign place does inform my work. The idea for Primordial Furnishings came to me in Taiwan because of the ubiquity of bamboo there, such a basic material, used as scaffolding and roofing for example. I find it interesting that there was a point when it was extremely fashionable to have bamboo commodities here in Europe, like a longing for a bit of authentic exoticism in ones sitting room, a moment of aspirational escapism.
RH: How would you describe London as an artistic city at the moment?
ND: There is a lot going on in London so it is a very exciting place to work in.
RH: Did you go to Frieze or Zoo (or both?)
ND: I spent an hour or so at Frieze and more time at Zoo as I was showing work with Moot (an artist-run space in Nottingham). Zoo was a bit fresher although I was disappointed by the lack of risk-taking there but I guess a trade fair is a trade fair.
RH: You often play with iconic images, both historical and contemporary.
Have you got a favourite period in design history?
ND: I have a lot of time for the Bauhaus period and have a great affinity for the 60’s and 70’s where scientific progress and aspirations for the future mixed with a new found throw-away culture. I am fascinated by the optimism of both of these periods.
RH: Now that you're back in school, for an MA in Sculpture at the Royal College of Art, do you anticipate a change in approach? Are you going to be taking a break from exhibiting for a while to be more experimental, or do you find that exhibiting helps you to experiment?
ND: I am thrilled to be back at school! I feel liberated, there is such enthusiasm there and it makes a nice change from the lonely studio I’ve been cooped up in all summer. Exhibiting is not a huge priority right now. I am concentrating on research and development of my work. I want to take the time to explore certain aspects of my practice and to be a little more experimental by allowing some accidents to happen.
Nicolas Deshayes’ first London solo exhibition is also first in a program of forthcoming solo exhibitions planned at RUN gallery. www.rungallery.co.uk
- Rebecca Hunter, Whitehot London
Noah Becker: Editor-in-Chief