Cherry Smyth/ David Kefford

David Kefford: Swollen in Vicinity to Wrench

by Cherry Smyth

(Excerpt from the Market Project book- find out how to buy it and read all the commissioned texts in full here.)

- You’ll be laughing!
- This is no laughing matter.
- Are you having a laugh?

What provokes the short burst of laughter on seeing one of David Kefford’s sculptures? Embarrassment, recognition or being caught red-handed at something you didn’t know anyone else could see? It’s some kind of joke where the punchline is never what you expect. His props or playthings are everyday objects like coloured plastic hoops, found pieces of wood, a huge cardboard tube, an unstable step-ladder, the inner tube of a bike tyre, bound or stuck together in a weirdly compelling amalgam with red twine, or putty, or rubber bands.

Take Ten Members (2009) the pink, spoked dangling piece with the penile shape topped with cotton wool attached to a u-bend, with one leg of a pair of brown tights pouring down from it like a cup of PG Tips: flashes of bathroom humour spring to mind, euphemistic ways of talking about the body’s expulsions and protuberances like ‘the waterworks, the plumbing, down there, the under carriage, spend a penny…’ are all invoked in their vernacular familiarity, a shield against shame, an odd kind of in-joke.

Then the laughter vanishes and something else occurs; something almost nasty or queasy, a sense of makeshift mending, the half-fixed, the tender line between smut and sensibility, between selfconscious anxiety and self-deprecating resilience. “I see the pieces as essentially pathetic,” explains Kefford, “but the trick is to make them feel confident.” So they operate as a kind of con, a disguise, a mask hiding a wound or a tear or a rip. They remind me of botched DIY jobs – the Elastoplast on the light socket, the duct tape on the wonky oven door, the sliced cork on the underside of the loo seat. The improvisational vision and energy of these repairs that never mend radiates off Kefford’s body of work.

Cherry Smyth is a critic, curator and poet. She has written regularly for Art Monthly, Circa and Art Review. She has written essays on Jane and Louise Wilson, Orla Barry, Salla Tykka and Dirk Braeckman, among others. She was a visiting critic at Braziers International Art Workshop and at the Centre for Contemporary Art in Castello, Spain and at the Jan Van Eyck Academie in Maastricht. She was a curatorial adviser for Axis’ online showcase, Open Frequency, 2006-7. Her latest poetry collection, One Wanted Thing is available from


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