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Interview: Nicolas Deshayes

2 October 05 interview: Amanda Young

"I create hybrid sculptures that gather multiple cultural and stylistic references. In the end, so much familiarity leads to a strange sense of hyperreality"

Nottingham’s art scene is being stirred up by its underground artists. Feel apprehensive and excited, but allow yourself this drug. It’s a strange place but you’ll realise new things. Alongside the annual Now Festival, October sees the launch of fresh new Notts art gallery Moot, which is being launched with an exhibition by contemporary artist (and Grandson of a French hunter), Nicolas Deshayes. 

The gallery have invited “energy” and raw talent into this independent space run by ex-Nottingham Trent University Artists of the Stand Assembly Studios. Deshayes’ hyper-real sculptures demonstrate that he is a brand-spanking-new face on the UK Art scene to watch out for. He takes the surrounding space and subverts the familiar, oscillating between Stanley Krubic’s Sci-fi and the council estate allotment. I caught up with Nik and the Moot crew at the gallery space in Sneinton.

Nik, tell me about the artwork you are going to be showing at Moot.
I will be forming a landscape within the gallery space. It will combine four sculptural elements from my recent degree show at Chelsea College of Art, plus one new piece I am creating now. I am casting a plastic object used by road workers for temporary signs, reproducing it and using its multiples as building blocks to create a mecano-like raft.

Sounds funny and strange! Your work makes me think of Matthew Barney’s Cremaster Cycle and its weird reality.
I create hybrid sculptures that gather multiple cultural and stylistic references in a way that, in the end, so much familiarity leads to a strange sense of hyperreality. “Taxidermaus,” a red polystyrene composition of three pre-fabricated pieces appearing like a simple mouse head is a spin on the taxidermy animal head trophies found in stately homes. This piece incorporates modernist geometry with humorous spontaneity and simplicity. Its impulsiveness subverts the formality of modernist aesthetic and works interestingly alongside other contrastingly highly crafted pieces. It creates an interesting link with the formality of the cast-aluminium boar hooves in Vernaculex…

How would you describe that?
Part climbing frame, part nautical mast, daemons of the underworld meets Rococo furniture! It is different elements taken out of context and assembled together. I was walking through my local park and saw this climbing frame uprooted out of the ground. It had a big stump of cement at its base and I found its structure interesting in terms of the redundancy of it’s function. I no longer looked at it as a playing-device but became more sensitive to the design of its structure and its absurdity out of context. So, I made a piece based on this idea, using vernacular industrial materials such as rope, metal, cement, rubber and aluminium. I asked my Grandfather (the hunter in France) to look out for some animal hooves I could cast and incorporate into this sculpture. I sought a wild boar hoof from him and cast it in the aluminium. The silver-finish of the alumium references the bluepeter-esque use of tin-foil to convey what is ‘space-agey’. This highlights the absurdity and alienation of certain elements when removed from their original context.

To appreciate your work then, I need to crack the references?
I take reference from Sci-fi, art history, notions of the monument, and everyday stuff. By removing a specific detail from a given object, it can easily loose its sense of identity. When using specific references, I like to make their origin less explicit in order to challenge the viewers’ reading of the work. I’m not interested in handing it out on a plate. I like the audience to go away, research and think about it. There’s no code to understanding my work, by noticing what’s around you on a day-to-day basis, you will automatically comprehend the language.

You use the word ‘otherworldly’ to describe your work, can you tell me more?
Sure, I am interested in the notion of retro-futurism, as in looking at them in the past looking at us in 2005. It’s about progress and science-fiction. I play directly with this but I don’t expect people to teleport to 3001 when looking at my work.

What was the decision to exhibit in Nottingham?
I was invited here to show after being hawked at my degree show by Tom of Moot. I don’t know much about the place, only the Robin Hood cliché! Looking forward to discovering it though…

The Moot Gallery launches on 15 October 2005.

The Moot Gallery website


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