Curating the East Midlands: Laura Purseglove

Laura Purseglove is Producer of the Radar programme, Loughborough University’s contemporary art commissioning programme which is part of LU Arts. Prior to joining Loughborough Laura, worked for commissioning agency Artangel where she contributed to the research, development and delivery of major commission projects including Inside: Artists and Writers in Reading Prison, The Colony and Natural Selection. Before developing a specialism in site-specific commissioning, Laura worked as a coordinator of temporary exhibitions at the British Museum. In addition to her work for Radar, Laura works as a freelance curator and producer, and writes on art and artists for varied publications as well as commissioned texts for art galleries.

Presence, Can Altay. Photo credit: Julian Hughes

How did you come to curating?

I always wanted to work in museums and galleries, and so I did the Art Museum and Gallery Studies MA at Leicester University. Following that I worked for a period at the British Museum, organising a programme of single object exhibitions called ‘Objects in Focus’. It was great, but I realised I wanted to work in the visual arts (having studied Art History at BA level) so I did the MRes Art History at Goldsmiths alongside working at the British Museum. After that I went to work for Artangel, having decided I was interested in off-site commissioning, and from there it was a natural step to come and lead on the Radar programme at Loughborough.

Brand News, Katrin Bohm & An Endless Supply. Photo credit: Julian Hughes

What’s happening behind the scenes at the moment at your venue?

A lot of planning! Planning for the two projects still to come this year, as well as developing the programme for the following academic year and trying to find time to develop ideas for beyond that. Also, as ever, funding applications.

Public Domestic, Emma Smith. Photo credit: Julian Hughes

Who are the artists and/or partners that you’re working with at the moment?

We currently have three artists in residence at the Department of Materials; Rachel Pimm, Phoebe Collings-James and Richard Paul. Each artist is completing a short ‘research residency’ with us, trying out ideas and using the lab equipment in the department to explore a concept or method pertinent to their practice. There will be a small exhibition documenting their work held on campus, and each is doing a public in-conversation event, in which they will contextualise their project within a wider discourse around materials and materiality with an invited artist, curator or theorist.

‘ough’ough, Europa & Peter Nencini. Photo credit: Phil Wilson

Tell us about your current or upcoming exhibitions or projects.

In the immediate future we will be presenting the results of Katarina Hruskova’s project, a collaboration with Dr Sarah Mills exploring the archive and methods of art teacher and pioneer of the Child Art movement Marion Richardson. Katarina is working toward an installation by way of a series of workshops. Also this academic year we’re organising a programme of workshops with performance artists Raju Rage, Tara Fatehi Irani and Joe Moran which will form the basis of an exhibition and publication. Beyond that, the next season of programming will be focused on the theme ‘Risk’, so we’re developing ideas with artists and academics for that.

Empire of Dirt, Heather & Ivan Morison. Photo credit: Julian Hughes

How do you select the artists you work with?

Radar artists are generally process/research driven, and oriented toward installation, performance, video rather than more gallery-based formats like painting and sculpture. I look for artists whose work intersects thematically with areas of research within the university, as well as artists whose practice seems appropriate. I go to a lot of exhibitions and events, and try and keep up with arts press to keep on top whats happening in the art world and find out about artists we might want to work with. Where possible, I’ll involve our academic collaborators in the shortlisting process. It’s important that the artist and academic establish a connection early in the process, so their involvement is crucial.

Elementary Activities, Jeremy Hutchison. Photo credit: Julian Hughes

What dates should we put in our calendars?

The remaining two residency in-conversation events: Phoebe Collings-James and Rebecca Bellantoni Wed 13 March 2019, 1pm – 2pm and Rachel Pimm & Daisy Hildyard, Wed 20 March 2019, 1pm – 2pm. We are also screening the film Nightcleaners (1975) on 20 March at 6pm. Following the film there’ll be an audience discussion with invited respondents: a Loughborough University cleaner; Marlous van Boldrik, who is studying for a PhD in artists’ uses and representations of cleaning; and Miffy Ryan, an artist who has both worked as a cleaner and used cleaning in her arts practice. There will be a short introduction to the film by Dr Elspeth Mitchell, whose research explores feminist theory and artists’ film. The dates for Katarina Hruskova’s installation will soon be announced!

How Happy a Thing Can Be, Cécile B. Evans. Commissioned by Radar & Wysing Arts Centre. Photo credit: Plastiques Photography

What or who are you really excited about?

Current conversations with artist Sonia Levy about a potential new commission are exciting. The best thing about this job is finding ways to make some of the amazing resources the university has available to artists, who often use them in completely different ways. That’s also true of the current artists in residence; they are using the same equipment – e.g. in the labs – as the researchers but their aims are often antithetical. When it works, then both parties get something really positive out of it, which is great to see. I’m also excited about the Elizabeth Price show at Nottingham Contemporary, as I’m a big fan.

Whose work or what space would you most like to curate?

I’d love to commission something permanent for a really remote location. Not some great monolith, something slight.

To the tintinnabulation that so musically wells, Sam Belinfante. Photo credit: Corey Bartle-Sanderson

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

It’s difficult for me to say as a relative newcomer, but I think access to funded opportunities for artists to develop new ideas over a period of time are limited everywhere. Residencies offer that opportunity to a degree, of course. But I think finding more varied ways to support artists in developing genuinely new ideas would be of great benefit to everyone.


Laura was interviewed in March 2019.

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