Curating the East Midlands: Bruce Asbestos

Bruce Asbestos is an artist and curator based in Nottingham. He is currently Director of Trade Gallery. You can follow Bruce on Twitter and Instagram.

What’s happening behind the scenes at the moment at Trade?

We have a new show each month so there isn’t that much behind the scenes at the moment, however, I’m thinking about how 2019 might look, perhaps what changes I might make to the programme. By the end of 2018 I’ll have done 15 exhibitions in the current space, so it’s probably time to rethink how the gallery functions; if I’m going to keep to the mainly painting type programme, or do something else. I got excited by the possibility of having Trade in Leicester or Loughborough as well, and how that would massively change the audience, it would be a pretty weird thing to have an East-Midlands gallery franchise. I like that.


Who are the artists that you’re working with at the moment?

I had a visit from Aimee Parrott today who has a show in the gallery in May, I’m also going to be working with Thom Trojanowski (June) and Grant Foster (April).

Banner, Aimee Parrott, 2016 – Aimee Parrott will be exhibiting at Trade in May 2018.


Tell us about your current exhibition or upcoming exhibition.

The current exhibition is by Joe Cheetham, we thought a lot about how we’d show his work in the space, he has this practice where a solo show can look like a group show because he has these different strands that on the surface appear quite different. But once we got to installing the exhibition and we had these large works in the space, Klass 2018, Luv Dup 2018 and Step Together 2018 it just felt right, even in such a small space, they have a bombastic, almost party like atmosphere. We intended only to show one of the three large ones. I’ve spent a few days with the works now and the gestural lines are really rewarding. He has a technique where he sprays on the back of the canvas, and it modifies the marks, the paint bleeds through with drying paint acting like a mask stopping extra paint coming through the canvas. Its like a screen print clogging up in a way, it leads to some unexpected marks, but also more subtly than directly spraying paint on. He says that he tries not to look at the front whilst painting, so not to over work a particular type of mark. Open Thursday and Friday till April 14th.

Joe Cheetham – Installation view


How do you select the artists you work with?

I try and select artists where I think an exhibition would benefit them and that they might be able to make a type of work they don’t usually make, or show works in a new way.

Sometimes it can be someone’s first solo show and other times they can be well established, but find a nuance of their practice they want to explore further. Some artists like that they are showing in a largely non-commercial setting, outside of the big smoke.

About once a year I go through many of the MA shows in the UK, and open all the links I find, which leads onto artists websites, group shows and different galleries, I open those further links until I have 100s of tabs open at once. It’s not a great way to find artists necessarily, more it gives you a feel for what type of things are going on, the art world is quite a small place. It helps reveal what artists are focusing attention on. Sometimes doing this you get a few people that really stand out, and its interesting to watch them even if its not your type of work. This activity is more to get a snapshot of that particular art world at that time, so you have a broader grounding. I usually then go and see different exhibitions, seeking out specific artworks, artists, curators or galleries.

I keep an extended list of artists on my laptop that I occasionally check into see what they are working on, usually, much later I make contact and then go for a studio visit. Some artists I’ve talked to for a number of years before actually making an exhibition with, sometimes its about being timely, when would a show be most interesting? Sometimes things change quickly and you have to re-arrange your programme, so that can be a nice experience, to change pace a little.

Occasionally artists that I know recommend people too, I guess its a trust thing that they know broadly what I’m trying to do and what might work at Trade.

I get an email about once a week of people asking for an exhibition, they are usually quite bad artists, who’ve not figured out that finding and selecting artists is one of the main joys of running a gallery.


Adam Hedley – Installation view from June 2017


What dates should we put in our calendars?

Trade is opening a new exhibition nearly every month this year – best to follow Trade on Instagram for updates, or subscribe to our mailing list here.


What/who are you really excited about?

I’m interested to see what emerges next in Nottingham, it goes in waves, the end of Losers Gym was a massive loss. I think there is room for a few more projects that bring in a different feel.


What do we need to see more of in the East Midlands?

Artist run galleries run by women.



(Header image: Cara Nahaul at Trade, Feb 2018)