Matthew Darbyshire (born Cambridge, 1977, lives in London) lives in a bubble of deep turquoises, fuchsia pinks and acid yellows - he sees these colours everywhere and so, he points out, do you. Darbyshire is interested in the non-specificity of today's design language: the fact that bright CMYK dots are the logo for an estate agent and a cinema, as well as a NHS walk-in centre; that Arne Jacobsen egg chairs can be found in London's Zetter boutique hotel as well as in recently rebranded McDonald's restaurants. For Nought to Sixty his work is not in the ICA gallery spaces but in the publicly available, non-art spaces that are open to being branded, advertised in or hired for functions; as his ICA project these spaces are given the coloured lighting schemes of other public, retail and corporate spaces from across London.
The ICA's windows looking out onto the Mall are illuminated to mimic the yellow lighting of the façade of Selfridges (a department store that has itself used the feminist artist Barbara Kruger's trademark black, white and red posters for its advertising campaign; co-opting work that was originally critical of consumerism). A magenta light strip on the ceiling over the ICA ticketing area alludes to the lighting in the entrance to the Hackney Community College - a far cry from Selfridges, but an organisation that has chosen to express its identity in the same visual vocabulary. A green cast on the desk of the box office evokes the green in the lobby of British Petroleum headquarters.
One of the most interesting issues raised by Darbyshire's practice is the polymorphous role of the art institution. Whilst Selfridges, Hackney Community College and BP have little in common, one can imagine links between the ICA and each of these, whether in terms of leisure activity, audience, education programmes or sponsorship. Perhaps most importantly, the ICA is able to utilise the design language of CYMK non-specificity while also to critique its ubiquitous presence.
In Darbyshire's recent solo show at Gasworks, a non-profit space in South London, the gallery was used to recreate one of the privatised council flats opposite the venue - the type of property that a young media professional might move into. Darbyshire decorated the transformed gallery fashionably, using a brightly coloured mélange of furniture and accessories bought and borrowed from interior decoration stores ranging from George at Asda and Tesco Direct to Vitra and Fritz Hansen; the work employed the aspirational aesthetic of this imagined resident but pushed it to satiric excess. In the same way that Blades House (2008) analysed contemporary design as well as Gasworks's own role in the process of gentrification, Darbyshire's Nought to Sixty work evokes the ICA's use of branding, but also asks the viewer to look outwards, towards the corporate realities of London.
Darbyshire's lighting scheme for the ICA's Mall windows will continue for the duration of Nought to Sixty, but from June onwards it will change colour on a monthly basis.