Curating the East Midlands: David John Scarborough

David John Scarborough is an Artist-Curator based in Loughborough, Leicestershire. He runs Modern Painters, New Decorators, a gallery space based in Carillon Court Shopping Centre, Loughborough, alongside Meg Bonser. You can follow Modern Painters, New Decorators on Instagram.

‘Dog Man Star’ installation view. Sam Francis Read and Jackie Berridge (2018)

What’s happening behind the scenes at the moment at Modern Painters, New Decorators?

There’s always a lot going on behind the scenes at Modern Painters, New Decorators! As a young organisation we’re working hard to get good practices and procedures in place to make sure we work well with our artists, our partners and our audiences. We’re also currently taking on new volunteers, which means we get to meet lots of interesting creative people who live locally, but who we may not otherwise meet.

‘Guest Room’ installation view. Sumiko Eadon, Demi Levy and Ian Jackson (2017)

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

This summer we’re putting on a show exploring public sculpture. Last year we approached a number of artists to contribute texts for a project that would look to create new physical, emotional and intellectual connections with public sculpture, a free resource that is often overlooked or ignored. Andrew Bracey, George Chinnery, Coco Crampton, Claire Davies, Mateus Domingos, Adham Faramawy, Colette Griffin, Ian Jackson, Aoife Mullan, John Plowman, Sarah Roberts, Ariane Schick and Tom Sewell got back to us with an awesome and diverse mix of short essays, stories and poems.

Tell us about your current exhibition or upcoming exhibition.

Well we’ve just wrapped up ‘The Ground Is Good’ – a show celebrating contemporary clay and ceramic practice and Leicestershire’s legacy as a source of clay. Thanks to Charnwood Borough Council we were able to commission Olivia Bax, Eva Masterman and Leon Sadler to make new work in response to the theme. We also had the privilege of being able to work with residents of the Baca Charity, who work with young asylum-seekers, and the Exaireo Trust, who work with previously homeless people, to create a series of clay coil pots that were exhibited alongside the work by Leon, Eva and Olivia at our Community Takeover event.

‘Anti-Dreamtaker (decorative ornament of a magic stone gateway) mounted to Artesan Wall Bracket 3f Grotto Bracket’ Leon Sadler (2018)
‘The Ground Is Good’ installation view. Leon Sadler and Olivia Bax (2018)

How do you select the artists you work with?

Selecting artists is a mercurial task that can take place over a number of years or a number of days! Ultimately we try to work with artists we want to build relationship with, and that are often early on in their career. It’s also important for us to work with artists who make work that can simultaneously function on both an immediate gut level and on a thinky theory level. Our gallery space is based within a shopping centre in the middle of Loughborough, so a lot of people who visit us have no experience of art. This means we have to try to continue to push the artistic quality of what we do, whilst finding ways to bring our audience along with us. It can’t just be interesting to us; it’s got to also be interesting to others!

What dates should we put in our calendars?

12 May to 23 June! That’s when our new exhibition ‘Where We Live And What We Know’ runs from and to.  The show’s been created out of a Charnwood Arts’ project which engaged local villages in workshops, drawing tours and opportunities for villagers to share their stories. Artist Paul Gent has made a series of new drawings with residents exploring place and participation. Charnwood Arts and Modern Painters, New Decorators have worked alongside Paul to produce a series of texts, structures and modes of display. This is a new collaborative way of working for us, so we’re excited to share it with you all!


‘Shadowlands’ and ‘Between a Rock & a Hard Place’ detail. Jackie Berridge (2013)

What/who are you really excited about?

We’re really excited about new ways of working, particularly in exploring the role of the artist-curator, working with new partners outside of the art world and in combining both the exhibition and retail aspects of an artist’s practice. We get super inspired by programmes by galleries like East Side Projects who have such an innovative approach not just to working with artists, but working creatively with councils, partners and the mechanisms of their city.

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

I’m not sure I could speak on behalf of the whole of the East Midlands, but in Loughborough we would love to see the opening of The Generator. The Generator project is looking to overhaul a beautiful old Loughborough School of the Arts building in the centre of town and pack it out with studios, offices, exhibition, performance and meeting spaces for Loughborough’s expanding creative community. My prayer is that having this space would help mobilise, encourage and promote creatives across the town. We can’t wait to see what happens!

12 Frederick Street, Loughborough – site of Generator Projects


Featured image: ‘SLOSH’ installation view. Zoe Francis Spowage and Rufus Newell (2017)