The use of cement in Richard Ducker’s most recent sculptures emphasises a kind of death, or a modernist monumentality, but the objects it coats and with which it is juxtaposed evoke nostalgia, myths soaked in dreams, and fairy tales gone wrong. If a domestic interior is evoked, it is one in which homely things have sprouted aggressive appendages, grown unexpected textures, or multiplied into viral aggregates, as if to embody the nightmares that commodity fetishes might dream of if they fell asleep. Like Proust’s madeleine dipped in tea, they evoke memories and sensations according to a logic that combines cultural association with phenomenological fantasies of sensual experiences, often clashing within the same piece. In Death Star (and Baby), for example, the familiar shape of plastic bottles is made strange by a coating of intensely black flock, at once attractive and repellent in its soot-like impurity, contrasting the smooth sensation of drinking ‘spring water’, with the gagging artificiality of spray-flock; we are reminded with a jolt how toxic our obsession with purity and cleanliness really is. Lots of fluids seem to run through the work: sucked in by a fur-lined, mouth-like creature with the energy of a crack addict; apparently running between a suitcase – travel, escape and refreshing holidays – and a concrete block that seems to be feeding off (or to?) a tree that might have been killed or perhaps re-energised by artistic usage. In Monument for England a bird, landed on a rather aggressive plinth endowed with too many hooks, seems to have been petrified by its drink. Sculptural processes have become the magic instruments of a post-Freudian fairy-tale, in which life and death, pleasure and pain, nourishment and poison have become entangled in an exchange that could lead to deadly battle, intense pleasure, or remain a secret.
Emotionally evocative without ever telling a clear story, affecting without being obvious, Ducker’s sculptures seem to be there with the mute theatricality of minimalism, yet to engage with notions of transformation. With simple formal means, they excavate fears, anxieties and desires associated with the most visceral of physical sensations – attraction and repulsion, pleasure and pain, need and self-sufficiency. The work keeps referring back to the body, a missing body we as viewers cannot help but imagine filling-in for with our own, transforming it into the ill-fitting piece of a jigsaw we are trying in vain to complete with our presence.