In the ’80s, Italian collective the Memphis Group were the shock-rockers of the design world. They brought geometric shards of clashing colour to the interiors, clothes and graphics of their era. After they split in 1987, their legacy was much imitated, then derided as a tacky reminder of a decade and its excesses – aesthetic as well as financial – that people wanted to forget or parody.
French artist Nathalie Du Pasquier (born 1957) was one of them. She has since focused on abstract painting, but although you can take the artist out of the design collective, you can’t take the design collective out of the artist, as her installation at Camden Arts Centre testifies.
A cityscape is created by shapes – ‘modules’, Du Pasquier calls them – that become an alphabet. As you pass through the installation, these modules interact with each other, creating an implied architecture on the walls. One room within a room is decorated with still lives. Some suggest interiors, others look like spare, utilitarian objects until you realise they are just shapes with no story, formally assembled. The structures reappear in further combinations around the main walls of the gallery, striped orange, mauve, amber and blue.
To get the most out of this you need the design eye, the ability to see between the modules, to rotate and tessellate them in your head. But passing through, you become an additional module yourself for a while, and there's nothing abstract about that.