In ten long lines of prose Raymond Carver describes storm clouds whilst his protagonist rinses some spilt talcum powder off the bathroom sink. Carver’s chronicles of small town American life are renowned for their moments of honed dis-ease and for the way that he evokes wider sensibilities while seemingly focussing on the minutiae. Simon Le Ruez’s sculptures work along similar lines typically incorporating familiar, somewhat anodyne, suburban imagery: net curtains, neatly trimmed grass, a young boy on a bicycle, black and white checked lino floor tiles.

These strongly iconographic and open-ended suburban signifiers are the base ingredients for the sculptures in ‘When the Quarry Calls’, the result is a selection of suburban vignettes not unlike a book of Raymond Carver’s short stories.

Any given Sunday (2006) is a series of narrative paintings in ink on a surface made from net curtain dipped in plaster. In one image a man is seen from behind, tied to a chair; or rather it appears that he may have been tied to a chair, it isn’t clear, we can’t see any fastenings so he may just be stretching. There is no sign of his feet being bound either yet if they are not bound it does seem an unusual position to adopt, somewhat contorted, why would he have chosen to wrap his feet around the front legs of the chair like that? This is my Carveresque moment of honed dis-ease. Is this something sinister, something sexual, or just a quiet moment of relaxation? If he is in fact being held hostage should I go and help him? I, the viewer, am being forced to make a judgement call about whether to go to the aid of a complete stranger. If I don’t go who knows what may befall him, the man who may or may not be tied to the chair. What is stopping me? Fear of embarrassment, fear of encroaching someone’s privacy? What was I doing looking through a net curtain any way? It’s a dilemma that is so quintessentially British; yes we will look, but then we won’t know what to do when we see something. God forbid that we should encroach upon our neighbour’s privacy. Or, at least, let’s do it but let’s not get caught. This is me and him: me and the stranger, our relationship. My responsibility for his well-being, all evoked in a few lines of ink, the sparest of information being used to sketch in a far wider picture.

Without you I’m Nothing (2007) portrays the tension between individual rights and collective responsibilities. Nine masses of varying heights are huddled together on a joiner’s bench which is doubling as a narrow strip of land. None are touching but each is wholly dependent on the others; if any one individual mass were to stumble several if not all of the others would undoubtedly go crashing down with it. Are these masses people or could they represent whole countries perched on one globe?

In contrast to the symbolic depiction of an island in Without you I’m Nothing where the joiner’s bench acts as a proxy for a land, Flourish (2007) is a literal and physical depiction of an island, a painstakingly detailed model of a floating piece of land suspended from the gallery ceiling. You can’t help but wonder what caused this tiny chunk of land – just big enough for one tree and a few fence posts – to be set adrift. The clues are limited so you could speculate endlessly about the reasons why this particular piece of land came adrift. Or was it set free? Or did it escape? You can’t help but notice that there is twice or three times the height of land depicted below the turf than there is above. Is this a metaphor for all that we do not know, the conscious in proportion to the unconscious? It is impossible to resist thinking about John Donne: “No man is an Island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea […] any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.”

Hanging on the wall near Flourish is a sculpted leather life ring but if the inhabitant of Flourish were to use it to try and float they might be disappointed. Pure Pleasure Seeker (2007) has the same dimensions of the standard white and orange life rings that you find near any rainy British beach resort, or alongside the rivers flowing through our cities. But Pure Pleasure Seeker is made in dark red leather and decorated with pink knicker elastic and it is unlikely to be buoyant. This piece of municipal safety apparatus has been adapted and is being used to argue the case for the pleasures of risk. It now has strong connotations of the fetish industry, of clubs furnished with leather apparatus where casual, often unprotected, sex with promiscuous strangers is customary. These are places where embracing danger is part of the pursuit of pleasure.

Chekhov, one of Carver’s heroes, chided the writers of heroic prose criticising their reliance on extraordinary people and memorable deeds, which, he thought, was often unnecessary. He also said “Every person lives his real, most interesting life under the cover of secrecy.”

Not knowing the whole truth about what goes on behind other people’s net curtains is in accordance with the principle that every individual has a right to privacy. Being willing to act once you do know what is going on behind your neighbours’ curtains is every individual’s moral responsibility.

This is the tightrope that Le Ruez’s work walks; it alludes to the private and to the social, to unheroic deeds and to heroic sentiments; it is elliptical yet focussed. The success of Le Ruez’s sculptures is derived from his ability to evoke the tensions in between these poles.