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Bright pinks, luminous greens, Ikea shelving, a soundtrack of Flashdance, Fergie and Oliver!, Matthew Darbyshire’s largest solo show to date is a reflection of contemporary society, its consumerist obsessions and the rise of cultural homogeneity. Comprising 10 large-scale environments from over the past decade, alongside two newly commissioned multicoloured polycarbonate sculptures in the grand entrance hall of the Manchester Art Gallery, the works in the exhibition show Darbyshire’s dedication to the processes of making – and faking – it, with materials ranging from felt to wood to Perspex.
The title for this show is taken from a landmark 1949 exhibition at the Detroit Institute of Arts, which collected the best of modern “design for living” in the context of the rapidly changing society of post-second world war America. Darbyshire takes this concept as a starting point and updates it for British society today, bringing together art, sculpture, design and architecture, and questioning the political and economic agendas that inform our contemporary taste. Particularly interesting is his commission, IP (2013), for a shopping mall in Utrecht, where each of the nine constituent parts reflects an element of the past, present and future, echoing the tension in which the mall currently sits, as its use migrates from shopping venue to place of entertainment.
Darbyshire, who, despite appearances, doesn’t see his work as part of the pop art wave, citing Tony Cragg as more of an influence, hopes that his installations will transcend time, gaining in intrigue as they distance themselves from their roots. He seeks to uncover the spirit within the inanimate object, exploring the potential of computer generation and 3D-printing, raising questions about the need for the artist’s hand. For now, at least, he continues to advocate its presence.
Matthew Darbyshire: An Exhibition for Modern Living
Manchester Art Gallery
25 September 2015 – 10 January 2016
Interview by ANNA McNAY
Filmed by MARTIN KENNEDY