Hinting at empty billboard visions

Matthew Derbyshire explores vernacular estates in his new Kentish Town exhibition

Have you ever noticed that the future as shown in hoardings around building sites being developed or in areas about to be regenerated is a lot rosier than what comes to pass? When the hoardings come down, instead of the utopian vision of pleasant streets they presented there are the usual suspects – be it Dominos or Lidl – and the real inhabitants are rarely so cheery as their fictional counterparts.

Matthew Darbyshire has explored this dichotomy in T Rooms at the Zabludowicz Collection in Kentish Town, by creating a trompe l’oeil environment – an installation which utilises large scale digitally printed banners like the building wraps. This solo exhibition – realised with help from his long-term collaborators - is a version of the T Rooms installation at Tramway in Glasgow earlier this year which extends the artist’s inquiry into sculpture, social critique, urban architecture and design.

The exhibition goes beyond the interior of the 1867 former Methodist chapel, converted in a way that preserves the history of the building by retaining original features, extending into the street. Visitors are steered though a labyrinth of printed banners, starting with a new work, Ways of Sitting No 5 – which combines a shiny chromed Kapoor-esque kids’ slide with six different cover versions of Atomic Kitten’s Whole Again and a fictitious Henry Moore quotation. Darbyshire described the latter as “hinting at the wilful emptiness of today’s ‘artistengineers’” in an interview for Aesthetica magazine.

He cited his inspiration as “the so-called developers’ vernacular estates we’re seeing thrown up in every ex-industrial quarry or wasteland across the country and usually visible only from the vantage point of a passing train given the uninviting nature of the manned vehicular entrance made classy by oversized red brick piers and leading to a bogging labyrinth of cul-de-sacs”. He also said that T Rooms reflected on “the Con-Dems community-up rhetoric that we’re seeing amount to little more than foolish revivalism”.


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Founded in 1994, the Zabludowicz Collection now contains over 2000 works, focusing on emerging art from the late 20th century to the present day, and Darbyshire’s work has been included for some time. Born in Cambridge in 1977 and now living in Kent, he graduated from the Slade in 2000 and the RA Schools in 2005. T Rooms marks the fifth anniversary of the Collection’s north London space.

Until December 2 at 176 Prince of Wales Road NW5. Thursday to Sunday noon to 6pm. Free. Next Saturday (November 3) artist Melissa Appleton and architect Matthew Butcher, both of Post Works, will lead a tour through the exhibition at 3pm. The following Sunday, also at 3pm, Matthew Darbyshire and Scott King will discuss their ongoing collaboration Ways of Sitting with Elizabeth Neilson, the director of the Zabludowicz Collection. Places at these events can be booked via the website www.zabludowiczcollection.com .

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