Matthew Darbyshire - Blades House

“The two thousand tenants formed a virtually homogeneous collection of well-to-do professional people – lawyers, doctors, tax consultants, senior academics and advertising executives, along with a smaller group of airline pilots, film-industry technicians and trios of air-hostesses sharing apartments. By the usual financial and educational yardsticks they were probably closer to each other than the members of any conceivable social mix, with the same tastes and attitudes, fads and styles – clearly reflected in the choice of automobiles in the parking-lots that surrounded the high-rise, in the elegant but somehow standardized way in which they furnished their apartments, in the selection of sophisticated foods in the supermarket delicatessen, in the tones of their self-confident voices. In short, they constituted the perfect background into which Laing could merge invisibly.”
JG Ballard, “High Rise”.

Blades House, Matthew Darbyshire’s first solo show in a public UK institution takes as a departure the domestic interior of a fictitious, urban middle-class professional in his mid-thirties. The character and his choice of furniture, textiles, art and other paraphernalia are used as a vehicle to address issues of taste, style, aspiration, class distinction and demographic blurring.

The actual floor-plan of Darbyshire’s installation is based on a two-bedroom flat in Blades House which is part of the Kennington Park Estate, next to Gasworks. Darbyshire’s life-size mock-up draws its inspiration from numerous conversions of two-bed council flats into spacious and airy contemporary-style ‘one-beds’. Our young professional, taking his first step onto the property ladder, could well be inspired by one of the protagonists of JG Ballard’s High Rise. His taste in furniture reflects an endeavour to assimilate and maintain the social standing of his peer group who shares a similar age, upbringing and occupation.

Matthew Darbyshire’s engagement with modern and post-modern design as a social and economical mirror of contemporary society is formalised through a display system – the hypothetical replica of the Blades House flat, once occupied – drawing from London’s Geffrye Museum’s depictions of the quintessential style of English middle-class living rooms from 1600 to 1997. As a proposed continuation of the museum’s chronology, the artist opens a window onto the recent past and the present, one that is notably marked by a tendency for the reuse and remodelling of cultural material.


Wed 20 Feb 2008
6.30 – 8.30pm
Matthew Darbyshire in conversation with Melissa Gronlund, critic and associate editor at Afterall. Followed by a panel discussion with Eleanor John, head of collections and exhibitions, Geffrye Museum, Gareth Jones, artist. and Anna Colin, exhibition curator, Gasworks. For more information see the webpage.

Sun 16 Mar 2008
4 – 6pm
Short films by artist Guy Ben-Ner and filmmaker Jamie Johnson, followed by excerpts of films looking at interior design and its social implications.
Matthew Darbyshire - Blades House

Event Title: Matthew Darbyshire - Blades House
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