When I meet with Laura Thompson at a cafe in South Melbourne she’s just come from the morgue. Before arts management she studied scientific photography, and she was there to borrow a camera. She will be using it to document the installation of her most-recent exhibition, Making Space.
Without wanting to think too much about what that camera is usually shooting, it occurs to me that where it has been – its context of place – is relevant to my reaction to it.
Thompson founded (lt) exhibitions in September 2014 and since then has put on three exhibitions under its banner. She is adamant she is not a curator, though, a term she thinks is overused. She sees herself as more of a facilitator – a conduit between untapped audiences and artists at the beginnings of their careers. (lt) puts on exhibitions after first connecting with partners. These might be businesses or individuals who may lend their work space or even their home. Then Thompson devises the exhibition’s theme and approaches artists to take part – artists whose practice is relevant to the space chosen and the partner involved. This makes the exhibitions more engaging and more approachable.
What Thompson is doing with (lt) is a response to her past working in commercial galleries and to research she has done into what is available to artists and audiences in Melbourne right now. “There are a lot of artist-run spaces and initiatives, which are wonderful,” says Thompson. “They are at one end of the spectrum.” For her, artists exhibiting their own work is a crucial part of any flourishing art scene. “But the same audience is going to those exhibitions,” Thompson says. “At the other end of that spectrum are commercial galleries. Which are really important for giving our artists international exposure. But between these two, there’s not a lot.”
The first exhibition by (lt), Oblivious Ends, was in a private home. The host is the owner of a display and design business, House and Universe, who has worked with companies such as Aesop and Koko Black. “The exhibition was by private invitation into her house,” says Thompson. “It brought a network of contacts to see the artists’ work. So it was very personal for the attendees.
“It’s just accepted that artists have to work second jobs. Which I think is appalling and this is something I’m working against,” says Thompson.
“Foolscap changes environments and creates narratives within them to make them engaging,” says Thompson. “And all of the artists in this exhibition are exploring those ideas.” She describes it as an examination of the difference between space and place.
“We just use those terms interchangeably. I think places are more personal than spaces. Spaces are bit more neutral. And places have a little more personality.”
So Foolscap Studio a perfect fit for an exhibition hoping to bust open this discussion. “And it’s art in a new context,” says Thompson. Which is more exciting than going to the same gallery-style space.”
One of the artists featured in Making Space is Jeremy Bakker. Thompson describes his practice as highly conceptual. “For this show he’s taken the idea of ‘space’ a step further. He is looking at NASA and connections to the universe on a broader scale.”
Then there’s Rohan Hutchinson, who uses large-format photography. He recently completed a study in Japan, taking photographs from different locations and layering them altogether in a single piece of work. “So it’s looking at cultural differences and differences in places, economics and material differences between environments, and then putting them all together,” says Thompson.
Also contributing pieces to the show are Carrie McGrath (sculpture and drawing) and Scott Morrison (video). Sharp-tailoring fashion label NEO DIA – known for its intricate construction, clean aesthetic and sharp lines – will contribute pieces, too.
“I chose the title Making Space because it can be interpreted in different ways. It could be building up an environment or pulling something apart, making space, making room for something.” Like with the morgue camera, context is everything.
Making Space will open on Thursday 26 from 6pm–8pm at Foolscap Studio, Level 3, 75–77 Hardware Lane, Melbourne supported by Four Pillars Gin and Little Creatures. The exhibition is open on Friday February 27 by appointment only. It is then open on Saturday February 28 and Sunday March 1 from 11am–5pm. There will be an artist talk on Sunday March 1 at 12pm.