Margate-based art collective LIMBO bring together the work of their affiliated artists in a new group show.

Margate-based art collective LIMBO bring together the work of their affiliated artists in a new group show.

LIMBO is a artist-led collective based out of an old electrical substation in Margate. It was brought to life with the aim of supporting art in the area, giving local artists studio, gallery and events space, but above all, a space for experimentation. LIMBO’s latest offering is their Associate Members’ Show, curated by Bob and Roberta Smith and Sarah Martin, head of exhibitions at Turner Contemporary. Huck spoke to Artistic Director Matthew Pulford for the lowdown.

How did the LIMBO show come about?
LIMBO is an artist-led organisation – all of us who run the exhibition programme are artists ourselves. But we don’t want to show our own work; we see our exhibitions as a way to bring new ideas and ways of working to Kent. We started our Associate Membership in 2013 because we wanted to establish a way of finding out about the work of artists who may not have much profile, but are making exciting work. As our programme focuses mainly on solo exhibitions, we saw the Associate Membership as a way to get a deeper picture of each member’s practice. So by the time the Associate Members’ Open came around, we might have seen up to eight examples of their work.

We decided to do an Open because as an organisation devoted to developing practice in the area, we feel that there’s value in creating a record of what our members are doing. In a way it’s also a hook: We knew that it would be attractive and useful to emerging artists to have their work seen by our guest judges, Sarah Martin, head of exhibitions at Turner Contemporary, and Bob and Roberta Smith, the artist and arts education activist. We have an Associate Membership fee for the year (all funds raised go back into the Membership) and one of the perks is that as an Associate Member you can enter work for the Open. While the show is important, we’re also interested in the long-term relationships with our artist members that it facilitates. We were so impressed by the quality of submissions and it feels like in the future we could programme our solo exhibitions entirely from the membership.

What is the story of the exhibition? Was there a narrative tying all the artists together?
We had about 250 works submitted for the show. The selection of works was entirely the choice of our judges – and we made sure that every piece got a good look-in. Sarah and Bob didn’t look for a theme or narrative at that stage. I think they chose work that they found to be fresh, directly communicative and fun. Once they’d made the selection, we set about working out how to get it into the space. We often construct new walls for a show to break up the space, so we came up with a few options and shared them with Bob and Sarah. After a bit of tinkering and conversation the form of the show was settled.

Because of the uncontrived nature of the selection, there’s a spectrum of attitudes that would not all work together in a single space, but there are resonances that emerge on a number of levels: an interest in outsider aesthetics and abjection, slick renderings of degraded industrial or ‘hard’ materials, amorphous forms, use of puns, an interest in a certain colour palette, and others.

Can you describe some of your favourite pieces from the show?
I don’t want to chose favourites but visitors tend to get quite excited by Jammie Nicholas’ ‘You Think I am F***ing Coco-Nuts’  – scratch and sniff wallpaper which forms an entrance to the show. Completely different in tone, Nicholas Mortimer’s film The Enthusiast looks at Ibenka, the ancient art of flower arranging, exploring the idea that an individual could somehow create a formula for understanding their own aesthetic preferences. Nigel Massey’s work, which at first glance appears to be faulty or scrapped objects, simultaneously and subtly engage and deny the surface sheen which has become a standard for luxury goods, be that art or furniture.

As curator, what were the challenges in presenting these diverse artists’ work together? How did you overcome those challenges?
It was a huge challenge and one that we dealt with through trial and error. We just tried to find out as much as we could about the artists preferences for the work in the first instance and tried to accommodate those preferences without imposing on another artists. What’s interesting about this is that the show does feel quite cohesive.

What drew you to the project space?
When we started LIMBO in 2003 studios came first. Working as an artist in Margate put you out on a limb and we wanted to create a place for artists to be able to experiment. So the project space in Margate’s former electrical substation was an extension of that. At first the project space was used for site-specific projects, but gradually we’ve shifted emphasis and tried to push the restrictions aside.

What do you hope viewers took away from the exhibition? Some sort of feeling?
It would be wrong for us to try to make this show into a kind of curators’ Gesamtkunstwerk! We wanted to create a show where the viewer felt able to engage with each work on its own terms. We would hope that visitors discover something new in the show and that the artists found new peers and ideas.

Do you plan to take the show on the road? Do you have another exhibition in the pipeline?
This show probably won’t tour, but we are in discussions with a few like-minded artist-led organisations across the country to talk about starting a new touring network. We’d love to take our Associate Members’ work further afield.
We’re really excited about our projects for the summer this year. We’ll be hosting solo shows by Dylan Shipton and Philomene Pirecki. We’re also planning an outdoor food and art based project, and the second in our Guests series, where we invite a more established artist with connections to Kent to work on a group project with collaborators of their choosing. This year our Guest is Benedict Drew, whose current show at Matt’s Gallery, Heads May Roll is fantastic.

Get yourself down to Margate to check out the LIMBO Associate Members Show until 23 March 2014.