• © Julie Cockburn, 'Merry Widow 3'.

  • © Dominic Till, 'I Came, I Left, I Am Still There'.

  • © Tereza Zelenkova 'The Unseen', Commissioned for The Jerwood/Photoworks Awards 2015

  • © Gabby Laurent & Dominic Bell, 'A Series of Attempts'.

  • © Eva Stenram, 'Split'.

  • © Jonny Briggs, 'Pyramid, The Sun'.

  • © Emma Bäcklund, 'Splint'.

  • © Mette Bersang, 'Plants Measure The Length Of The Night'.

Ideas Series Interview: Tom Lovelace

We speak to curator and photographer, Tom Lovelace, about his curation of 'At Home She’s a Tourist’, an exhibition focussing on eclectic approaches to domestic space, showing at Copeland Gallery 19 - 21 May, 2017.

Photoworks: The show brings together an eclectic group of visual artists such as Clare Strand, Eva Stenram, Jonny Briggs and Julie Cockburn, to examine the realm of domestic space, focussing on how our recognisable domestic existence can be reconsidered and redefined. The included artists vary in the stages of their career, creating an interesting mix of approaches and interactions with the subject. What was your initial intention with curating this show? Did you already have a list of artists you wanted to work with?

Tom Lovelace: I was first approached about curating an exhibition last year, and very quickly I knew what that show would be, thematically and conceptually. During the last ten years or so I have developed two to three exhibition ideas that I believed to hold potential, be insightful and compelling. These have existed in my head and nestled within my sketchbooks as working ideas: simmering and developing over a number of years. At Home She’s a Tourist was one these and thus I’m delighted to be able to make this happen for Peckham 24 and Photo London.

The intention is to present a display of contemporary artists working within seemingly familiar, domestic spaces, yet significantly the resulting artworks slip and slide into realms of the strange and unknown. Collectively, I view this group of artists as representing some of the most fascinating current photographic practices. The artists are able to use the domestic as a stage on which to recreate, transform and travel.

© Mette Bersang, ‘Plants Measure The Length Of The Night’.

I started working on the show last year. At that point I didn’t have the full list of artists as it currently stands. However there were three or four artworks that I knew would be important for the structure of the display. These include Mette Bersang’s video, Plants Measure The Length Of The Night in which we are given access to what appears to be an emotional relationship between the artist and a plant which silently sits on a table in her Copenhagen apartment. We witness what is perhaps a defining conversation between the two. Julie Boserup was another artist, also Danish, who has produced exquisite collage works that explore the relationship between architecture, space and ones position to these. Further, Eva Stenram was a strong presence in my mind. In particular the ways in which she innovatively navigates and confronts both imagery and material matter that are rooted in our interior dwellings. Significantly, all of the artists I approached were available and I am looking forward to hopefully creating a dynamic display.

© Eva Stenram, ‘Split’.

PW: The approaches to making work are very varied in the selection you’ve bought together. What do you look for when putting together a show like this?

TL: In terms of artistic approach and strategies, I think the practices that form the exhibition reflect some of the ways in which I use and negotiate the photographic image within my own practice. The installation will no doubt be classified as a photography exhibition, however visitors will also encounter video, sculpture and sound. I believe I can speak for all of the artists exhibiting when I say that the photographic image is highly important, however for some, this is combined, fused and challenged with and by other media. Ultimately, when searching for the parts of the show, it was a case of evaluating and connecting with the artworks I have personally encountered and been touched by. This was paired with many studio visits and conversations.

© Emma Bäcklund, ‘Splint’.

© Dominic Till, I Came, I Left, I Am Still There.

One important strand of the exhibition was achieving a balance of established artists along with emerging ones and also those who are about to graduate. One of the tasks I set myself was to create a show that would present the work of younger, recent or current postgraduates and this has taken form through Dominic Till, Emma Bäcklund, Gabby Laurent & Dominic Bell along with more established names such as Eva Stenram, Julie Cockburn, Claire Strand, Julie Boserup and Tereza Zelenkova. Further, some of the artworks have existed for a few years, others have been made specifically for this exhibition. It is very exciting to witness these coming together and I hope visitors encounter a somewhat charged and exciting display.

© Tereza Zelenkova
‘The Unseen’,  Commissioned for the Jerwood/Photoworks Awards 2015

PW: One of the approaches looks at how to make mundane, highly recognisable setting of the domestic space, become transformative, reframing them as new spaces. Clare Strand comes to mind with her film ‘Material’. Using the dust in her bedroom at night, Strand presents a fragmented view of her interior space. Can you speak a little about this approach and how it deals with the wider issues in the show?

TL: Strand’s work is important within the show. It succinctly taps into the potential of space and material matter. It is an inventive work in that manner and represents the idea of exploration, transformation and travel, all from within the confines of an interior dwelling. Some might feel the need to physically travel in search of the exotic and the unknown. By contrast, the artists brought together in At Home She’s A Tourist remain seated, metaphorically, and interrogate the surfaces, spaces and apparatus that they coexist with on a daily basis.

PW: A connection appearing from this investigation is the link to family ties. Artist Johnny Briggs and Julie Boserup are examples of this with both examining their own relationships to their parents and how that manifests in the home in very different ways. Can you talk us through your interest in these artists’ works?

TL: This is very poignant as an encounter three years ago with Julie Boserup, in a way, set the wheels in motion for the exhibition. I attended a talk by Julie in Aarhus, Denmark. She presented her work; projecting images on a large screen, as most artists do from time to time. Significantly, she then sat down and eloquently recalled an informative time from her childhood. She revealed the separation of her parents and how after this break up, both of her parents continued to live in the ‘family’ home. Her father occupied the left side of the house, her mother the right. Julie existed within and between these two interconnected spaces. Her father eventually moved out and the left side of the house was used by different collectives. In turn, a function room was created in the middle of the house, which operated as a form of undefined social space within Julie’s home. It was this story and these familiar, yet undefined spaces that kept on coming back to me.

With regards to Jonny Briggs. For me, he represents fresh air within contemporary photography. His work has humour, history, psychological conflict and domestic exploration all rolled into compelling visual imagery. His pictures and sculptures open a door into a space where dramas unfold that are rooted in his reality and family.

© Jonny Briggs, ‘Pyramid, The Sun’.

PW: It seems many of the artists are exploring their own mental interior spaces through examining their private domestic dwellings. Do you think it’s possible to consider the two separately?

TL: In the context of this exhibition, that is a key relationship and question. From my own experiences, the two spaces are definitely linked. My experience of space, surface and material shape and inform in some way my mental state. Thinking about this in reverse; I am interested in how our psychological state shapes the ways in which we might behave and respond to the spaces we inhabit and nest in. What struck me about all of the work in the show, is a sensibility and inventiveness from all of the artists in how they have negotiated, explored and questioned the relationship between mental and physical space. The work of Gabby Laurent and Dominic Bell springs to mind. For me, experiencing their work starts with walking through a door into a complex, visceral and somewhat absurd set of psychological dramas played out within their East London studio. I suspect their work will unfold and manifest in different routes if and when they depart.

© Gabby Laurent & Dominic Bell, ‘A Series of Attempts’.

PW: Can you explain how you came to name the show?

TL: I have been working with two writers, Gemma Padley and David Evans, who have produced insightful texts to accompanying the show. David, who is Berlin based, sent me correspondence with multiple responses to my initial ideas. Within this was a reference to At home he’s a tourist, a 1979 track by Gang of Four. This eventually took hold and became re-shaped into its current form, At Home She’s A Tourist. The emphasis falling on the words Home and Tourist, and a synchronisation and friction between these two notions. Further, and interestingly the show was nearly an all female exhibition. The first six artists on paper were women. This changed when the wonderful work of Jonny Briggs was brought into the frame.

© Julie Cockburn, ‘Merry Widow 3’.

PW: Finally, what’s coming up next for you?

TL: I have just returned from a residency at Yorkshire Sculpture Park. I and three other artists: Miriam Austin, Sam Belinfante and Frances Scott, were all staying in a small house on the grounds of the park, which was brilliant. It provided lots of space, both physical and mental. I have just landed back in London! The project is a collaboration between YSP and London based Art Licks. In essence, we have been commissioned to make new works in response to the surrounding landscape. The result will be a group show opening in October, On The Heights. Please come and visit! In the shorter term, I am participating in a group exhibition at Laure Genillard Gallery, London which opens on 5th May, curated by Paul Carey-Kent and titled The High Low Show. I shall be presenting a new work that I have been working on since the New Year. Always a sense of excitement fused with apprehension before displaying new work.

Lastly, I am really looking forward to the summer graduation show at the Royal College of Art. I have been a visiting lecturer with MA Photography since last year, and there is some wonderful artwork currently being resolved and refined.

At Home She’s a Tourist shows at Copeland Gallery, London SE15 3SN 19-21 May 2017
artists exhibited: Emma Bäcklund, Mette Bersang, Julie Boserup, Jonny Briggs, Julie Cockburn, Gabby Laurent & Dominic Bell, Louise Oates, Eva Stenram, Clare Strand, Dominic Till, Tereza Zelenkova
For more information on the show, click here.

For more from our Ideas Series, click here. 

For more information on Tereza Zelenkova and The Jerwood/Photoworks Awards, click here.