Nicolas Deshayes: Darling, Gutter.

26 September – 12 December 2015

Darling, Gutter. inhabits the gallery with six gurgling objects that slip through the space. They are pale in colour and irregular in shape. Their surfaces are lumpy and blemished – skin-like – and yet they are hard to the touch, almost brittle. There are pipes running across walls, in and out of the works, and up and down from various points of the ceiling’s complex plant system; everything is connected. The space itself feels unusually warm as heat radiates from the uncanny objects. It is a warm stomach, cosy yet unsettling.

Nicolas Deshayes’ recent works consider the architectures and circulatory systems that support our daily lives. His work plays with the dynamic between the material surfaces and skins of the urban environment and what lies beneath, or is invisible to the human eye.

In the exhibition Darling, Gutter., Deshayes presents a series of sculptures that are simultaneously functional radiators. Each is attached to the existing water pipes in the gallery, creating a cycle between sculpture, building and industrial boiler. This is akin to the human body’s network of singular organs with individual functions that are connected through the body’s central nervous system. The warm sculptures operate by feeding parasitically from the stronger, larger organism of the institution.

The artist cites Victor Hugo’s description of the Parisian sewers in ‘Les Miserables’ as a discerning reference for how our bodies anatomical structures share similarities with that of the urban backdrop – “…Paris has another Paris under herself; a Paris of sewers; which has its streets, its crossings, its squares, its blind alleys, its arteries, and its circulation, which is slime, minus the human form.” (Hugo, ‘Les Miserables’, Book II, Chapter 2.) However, Deshayes is particularly interested in Hugo’s attraction to the sewer’s dirt and how in ‘Les Miserables’ he discusses them as a place so ugly, where filth is so filthy that it almost becomes pure again. Hugo sees them as a place of honesty, where all things are equal – “the filth takes off its shirt, absolute nakedness, rout of illusions and of mirages, nothing more but what it is…” (ibid.) As an artist, Deshayes is attracted to filth, to the fluids from our bodies and the grime in our environment and how these interact with the man-made, mass-produced surfaces that are all around us. The sculptures on display at GSS have the artist’s trademark bulges, lumps and globular shapes; they are purposefully imperfect and reminiscent of bodily organs.

The title of the exhibition, Darling, Gutter., is described by the artist as a short love letter – a note that  might have been left on the fridge door for a loved one to find. It has tonal warmth, sensual and affectionate, and yet its one-word contents – ‘gutter’ – is hard and melancholic.

The sculptures are cast in solid Jesmonite from forms created by Deshayes using expanding polyurethane foam and embedded with internal pipework. This is one of GSS’ most ambitious commissions to date – the work was produced on site by the artist and the GSS technical team. Darling, Gutter. was Deshayes’ first solo exhibition in Scotland.

The exhibition is generously supported by Studio_Leigh, London; Arts Council England, Grants for the Arts; Strathmech Building Services Limited; The Henry Moore Foundation, Outset Scotland and Jesmonite.

Nicolas Deshayes was born in France (1983). He graduated from the Royal College of Art in 2009 and Chelsea College of Art and Design in 2005 and currently lives and works in London. Recent solo exhibitions include Becoming Soil, Jonathan Viner, London, 2015 and Crude Oil, S1 Artspace, Sheffield, 2013. This year he has participated in group exhibitions at Tate St Ives, Fridericianum, Kassel and Elizabeth Dee, New York. He is included in British Art Show 8, which will be at various venues across Edinburgh from 13 February – 8 May 2016.