Matthew Darbyshire

Matthew Darbyshire
Matthew Darbyshire, Open Air Sculpture, 2018. Photo Tim Bowditch


Open Air Sculpture, 2018

In his installations and sculptures British artist Matthew Darbyshire explores contemporary value systems and their relationship to art history and aesthetics. In this unique permanent commission for the Hermans estate on the island of Sarvisalo in Finland he has made interactive bronze ‘copies’ of iconic sculptures from the western Modernist tradition. These playable artworks directly reference objects by American and British sculptors Alexander Calder (USA 1898–1976), Barbara Hepworth (UK 1903–1975) and Henry Moore (UK 1898–1986). Darbyshire has reproduced versions of each of their signature works and repurposed them as children’s play equipment. The play elements have been selected to enhance the formal properties of the sculptures – Moore’s Large Arch, 1971 becomes a nest swing, Hepworth’s 1948-49 Biolith with comedy lips is a working megaphone, and a facsimile of Calder’s Upstanding T, 1944 now has brightly-coloured musical gongs.

By historical definition art, as opposed to design, produces objects that exist without function, Darbyshire’s humorous approach inverts their exclusive status as untouchable works of art and in the process questions not only the rarefication of art but also the social structures that dictate the production and success of an artwork.

There is a combination of criticism and compliment built into the references that Darbyshire draws upon, be that Nike trainers, Red Bull energy drink advertising or Modernist sculptures. The items he chooses to examine are all highly successful and have instant brand recognition for millions of contemporary viewers. In the case of the three pieces in Open Air Sculpture the references to ‘mature’ works from the careers of seminal artists, and could therefore be considered as successful distillations of their unique style and practice. Darbyshire applies his own signature approach, rather than a signature style, to highlight the systems that create meaning in culture. These works are, on the surface, for childish rather than adult pursuits, but in fact they make a complex intellectual argument involving the foundational values that create our culture. Often who a work is made for dictates its value, both culturally and financially.

Matthew Darbyshire was born in Cambridge, UK in 1977. He currently lives and works in Rochester, Kent, UK.

Biolith Talking Tube (after Barbara Hepworth)

Bronze, stainless steel and enamel paint

119 x 72 x 46cm

Large Arch Nest Swing (after Henry Moore)

Bronze, stainless steel and polypropylene

223 x 250 x 143cm

Upstanding T Chimes (after Alexander calder)

Bronze, stainless steel and enamel paint

151 x 81 x 58cm

Exhibiting Artists