On Tuesday, I spoke with two Matthews. Darbyshire, the artist who will be collaborating with emerging arts students to produce work for his exhibition, ‘Big Dinner’ at Margate’s most edgy and experimental arts’ venue, and de Pulford, one of LIMBO’s directors who, in the final preparation stages will be “running around looking for electric cables and making sure everything actually works.”
In recent years, Margate has developed its identity as an artistic hub outside London. Tracy Emin grew up here and was the first to have a solo show at Turner Contemporary, an international David Chipperfield designed gallery, which opened its doors in just 2011. Previous to this, in 2003, LIMBO was set up as an artist-led organisation in Margate’s old, gutted, electricity sub-station. Matthew de Pulford hopes, at this important time for the town, that it can continue to develop Kent’s artist community further.
‘Big Dinner’ is the first exhibition in a series at LIMBO called Guests that invites established artists who live or have previously lived in Kent to act as ‘host’ for a collaborative project. I manage to catch a conversation with Darbyshire, who is one of these ‘hosts’, whilst he is in the middle of finalising the installation of his solo show at the Bloomberg Space. He tells me that he will arrive in Margate, after Wednesday’s opening after party, “hungover” – he laughs – to be immediately thrown into the final preparations for assembling ‘Big Dinner.’
For his time as ‘host’ at LIMBO, Darbyshire has chosen to work with ten students whom he tutors on Slade Art School’s graduate sculpture programme. I ask him how the name ‘Big Dinner’ came about and he explains that after the group took a trip to Margate, explored the town and the exhibition space, the idea of a ‘dinner’ emerged from their encounter with a large communal table with a red tablecloth. “We didn’t want this to be just a group show,” he says. “Instead of an assortment of different works, each confined to a corner, each artist will bring their own element or, perhaps, dish to the table.”
Since the initial meeting, each artist has been working on his or her own piece(s) away from the group. Darbyshire cheerfully establishes that he has “no idea what any of the artworks will be” and then tells me that he himself has made decorative glass pieces to hang above the table, a bit like chandeliers. He then hints at a possible film piece by one artist who secretly films people eating in public. “I hope,” he continues, “that some of the artists will be bold enough to bring large objects or challenging pieces to the project… so that the different works will be fighting for space. But, beyond that, I can’t say much because I don’t yet know!” The group will arrive in Margate on Thursday (25th April), where the works will be revealed. The exhibition narrative will then be finalized in just one day before the opening on Friday.
For a moment, we touch on his Bloomberg Space exhibition in which hundreds of ancient wooden artifacts are brought into the setting of a rebuilt realization of the Olympic Village flats. Within this strange amalgamation of objects and contrasting origins, a type of conversation – tension – will occur between objects. He goes on to discuss with me that this idea of objects interacting in a domestic space may well continue into ‘Big Dinner’ – “Hopefully,” he says, “there’ll be a discussion, or even an argument, emerging between the different artists and their works.”
We joke about the horror of awkward dinner parties and the impossibility of leaving until all courses have been consumed. Fortunately Darbyshire always has the excuse of needing to dash off and catch a train back to Kent. Perhaps Darbyshire’s hopes for discussion and argument – especially considering none of the artworks have yet ‘met’ (been revealed) – will be realised in a manner akin to an awkward dinner party.
The topic of Margate soon arises… “Whilst in London,” Darbyshire explains, “the pressures of art trends and curator-led exhibitions can distract from the work of the artist.” He describes how living in Kent, slightly removed from all of this, makes it easier for him to focus on work. He hopes to convey this to his students: “They’re all finishing their degree courses broke and I’m trying to persuade them to look outside London. Rent is cheaper and it’s a different environment.”
The project space, LIMBO, allows established artists to try something more experimental, outside the usual constraints of a gallery institution. Matthew de Pulford has observed the artists’ preparations for this exhibition. When he explains to me the cover photograph, it is revealed that what I mistook for a mouldy cucumber is actually a strange, unidentified, baguette-shaped object that the group discovered in Scott’s emporium, Margate’s treasure trove of a furniture shop. “They came across it whilst exploring the town on their initial visit and it became an ongoing joke that somehow became a motif for the show,” de Pulford says. “I think the show will be full of similar cheeky surprises.”
It’s impossible to predict what exactly will emerge from this exhibition… Darbyshire hopes that the energy and sense of interaction will continue after the initial opening night, once all the artists have returned to London. Matthew de Pulford equally believes in allowing the show to unfold spontaneously: “I don’t want to impose or fictionalise the exhibition before it happens by trying to prescribe meaning to something we can’t fully predict, even if this makes any preview information on the show pretty difficult.” He continues to explain how he is further interested in the parallels between how visitors behave at an exhibition and how guest might behave at an uncomfortable dinner party: “Both situations have the same respectful silence,” he says. “And I’m fascinated by the ceremonial elements of a dinner party: those awkward moments as heralded by some reality TV, like Come Dine With Me…”
‘Big Dinner’ is definitely worth a day trip to Margate in my mind: for the enigma and mystery surrounding the exhibition, for the comedy that already seems present, and to even, perhaps, meet the two Matthews. At least, if it’s a really uncomfortable dinner, I have the excuse of having to catch my train back to London.
For more information on LIMBO Project Space and about further exhibitions part of the series Guests, see here
words Helena Goodrich
Cover Image: © Robert Rivers and Tara Tate, 2013.