Meet the Curator: Chantelle Purcell

Oct 2019


We spoke to our in-house Curator Chantelle Purcell to get some insight into the importance of curation as part of the creative process, and learn about a selection of exciting international projects she is working on for the studio.


Why is curation such an important part of what we do?

Curation has become an integral part of Acrylicize’s process in helping to transform spaces, tell stories and provide a spotlight for emerging talent. I see my role as a curator as very much in conversation with the creative process, with external and in-house artists and designers at the studio. Through projects we act as a commissioner of artworks, helping provide new contexts for artists to be seen in. 

One of my inspirations as a curator is Serpentine Director Hans Ulrich Obrist; he’s always talked about the role of curation as a way to be helpful to artists. Etymologically speaking, curation comes from the Latin word ‘curare’, meaning to take care. I believe this is integral to the role of a curator, preserving a legacy for artists and ensuring their work is seen in the best light.


Tell us about your background in the arts

My passion for art started as a young child; my mum created a home that was full of creativity, expression and fun. She’d often layout huge rolls of paper in the garden and we’d cover our hands and feet in paint, creating abstract paintings. I was always a really messy child, getting fully stuck into making, often deconstructing everything in sight.  I graduated with a BA from UCA in Canterbury and an MA in European Arts Practice at Kingston University. Post-graduation, I started working in Deptford with a collective of artists and designers to host exhibitions, hold open studios and showcase our own art in new ways. This energy of being part of an arts community was inspiring and it allowed me a greater understanding of the challenges involved for artists in getting their work seen and noticed. Since then I’ve carved out a career as an arts professional in order to provide a platform for young emerging talent

At Acrylicize, I’m working to ensure the curatorial department will help to provide a legacy for our artists, as well as expanding on the reach of the studio and ensuring we are as involved as we can be with contemporary discourse. As a studio, we’re forward-thinking and involved in wider debate socially, environmentally and politically. As a collective of makers, we’ve all got something to say.


Tell us about your latest projects working with artists

The first of two very different projects I’ve worked on recently is our Delftware Project for a building in Amsterdam. I’m really intrigued by the intersection of fine art and design, and this project explored exactly that. We commissioned the talented ceramicist Miyu Kurihara to hand paint 35 food takeaway boxes in a traditional delftware aesthetic as commentary to our consumerist society. Celebrating the everyday moments in the way that delftware traditionally does, we utilised the forms of takeaway boxes as a metaphor for the fast-paced lifestyle, the constant ‘on-the-go’, preserving the ‘throw-away’ as precious embellishing, savouring and saving these moments. This is a really interesting collaboration between Acrylicize and the artist, blending both the creation and curatorial worlds together. 

I am also working on a project of curated artworks for The Edwardian Manchester, A Radisson Collection Hotel set inside the historic Grade II-listed Free Trade Hall – one of the UK’s oldest and most iconic buildings, known for its rich musical and cultural past. Curatorially, we wanted to highlight the heritage of the hotel and celebrate its contemporary vision. We curated unique artworks for 263 bedrooms, commissioning artists to celebrate the city in a playful and modernist way. Throughout the hotel we have a chromatic colour spectrum that leads guests up the hotel, celebrating the architecture and rich history of Manchester. We have artworks that nod to the Suffragette movement, with a special portrait of Emmeline Pankhurst commissioned by an artist who has an upcoming project with the granddaughter of Slyvia Pankhurst, exploring the inequality within the art industry. We also have a collection of works that nod to the music heritage of the Free Trade Hall, highlighting iconic gigs like Sex Pistols’ first gig outside London in 1976, which had a huge impact on Britain’s music scene.


Can you name some artists we should look out for?

Aphra Shemza is a London based multimedia artist exploring the impact and legacy of technology on our world. Working with abstraction, interactivity and light, Shemza combines traditional sculpting techniques with the latest technology to create her work. Shemza’s work is a nod to modernism in a groundbreaking way. In 2018, she launched a peer resource for artists called Artology who wanted to be mindful of their environmental impact, researching solutions for sustainable practice in partnership with Arts Council. She’s an exceptional artists that seeks to ignite conversations across academic and community platforms in the new media art industry and I’m excited to see her direction of work. 

Hormazd Narielwalla is a London-based artist who primarily works in the medium of collage. His practice compasses original prints, artist books, and sculpture, he has a PhD from the London College of Fashion. He has pioneered artwork that portrays abstract body forms and abstract designs via collages made on discarded tailoring patterns of deceased clients of Savile Row tailors, as well as on patterns obtained from archaic or contemporary tailors of the same genre. He reimagines the body to create abstract drawings, that builds on the legacy of cubism. 

Rachel Ara is a conceptual and data artist who explores the relationships between gender, technology and systems of power. She graduated with a Fine Art degree from Goldsmiths College, London, where she won the prestigious Burston award. As a multi-disciplinary artist, she has a diverse skillset acquired from working 25 years in the tech industry to being a trained cabinet maker and combines them to make unique and often surprising installations and sculptures. The works are nonconformist with a socio-political edge that often incorporates humour and irony with feminist & queer concerns. Her work This Much I’m Worth was included in the recent London Design Festival at the V&A. This piece explores our relationship with technology, the value of art and is also a commentary to the value that we place on women in our society, reproducing the aesthetic of a sex shop sign in Soho. 


What are your favourite exhibitions you’ve seen this year? 

This year has been really exciting one in the art world. Some pivotal exhibitions would include: 

  • Olafur Eliasson, In Real Life at the Tate Modern 
  • Y/our Future is Now at Serralves Museum, Porto.
  • Ghana Freedom at La Biennale di Venezia – The Pavilon – a series of curved chambers, designed by architect David Adjaye, which included new works by sculptor El Anatsui, video artist John Akomfrah, and painter Lynette Yiadom-Boakye
  • Sun & Sea (Marina), an operative artwork about climate change, presented by Lithuainina pavillon at La Biennale di Venezia
  • United Visual Artists: Other Spaces
  • The long overdue retrospective of pioneering artist Anni Albers at Tate – a female student of the radical Bauhaus school 

Any recommendations for exhibitions coming up? 

Anthony Gormley at the Royal Academy, on now until 3rd December 2019, and next year is Steve McQueen and Zanele Muholi at Tate. 


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