This week, we’ve been joined by our first ever artists-in-residence, Joyce Treasure and Suzi Osborn. The two artists were chosen as the first recipients of free studio space at our Grade II-listed Cornwall Buildings in partnership with Grand Union. Occupying a new studio in the building, Joyce and Suzi will receive mentoring from Grand Union’s curatorial team and be invited to take part in both Grand Union and Bruntwood events. We sat down with the new residents to find out more about their work and what they are most looking forward to about this opportunity.
Joyce returned to her hometown of Birmingham to undertake a Black Studies, sociology undergrad degree course at Birmingham City University. “After a couple of visits to Grand Union, which I recommend any artist new to Birmingham do, to look at their studio space and exhibitions, I discussed with them my practice and needs,” says Joyce. “At the time the call for Artist in Residence was open, so they signposted me to the programme. The mentoring from Grand Union’s Curatorial team appealed to me, as I’m keen to gain support with my art practice.”
For Suzi on the other hand, it was the opportunity to be based in the city centre, surrounded by architecture, that appealed to her most. “A lot of my work is influenced by architecture...I had advice from another artist who said I should try and get more of an inside perspective on architecture and development in the city, so this seemed like the ideal chance to do that,” Suzi explains. “I’m hoping that the residency will allow me to get access to some buildings that I wouldn’t otherwise have access to so that I can take photographs and press moulds as a starting point for making new work.”
The work created by the two artists is vastly different, but they look forward to working closely with one another. “My work regards Black identity and relies on connecting with others to discuss the effects of colonialism, imperialism and the political and economic landscapes such legacies leave behind. I’m hoping that the residency will offer a creative space to speak with others who wish to talk further about this topic,” says Joyce. With the residency running alongside her Black Studies degree, much of Joyce’s inspiration comes from her academic reading, citing writer of ‘Yearning: race, gender and cultural politics’, by Bell Hooks as “inspirational”.
But it is the built environment where Suzi gets her inspiration, as she looks forward to seeing the buildings that Bruntwood has worked on in Birmingham. “It’s usually things that are overlooked that interest me the most. I love the 1990s TV program Abroad in Britain by Jonathan Meades which is a series based on the idea that ‘the exotic begins at home’,” says Suzi. It is this interest which she believes is responsible for her creation of sculpture, receiving an MA in Sculpture from the acclaimed Slade School of Art in London. “Ed Allington who was Head of Sculpture while I was at the Slade said that we make sculpture when our obsession with the world of things goes beyond image making, saying ‘Sculpture is looking at real things by making real things. It is making poetry with solid objects.’”
The arts scene in Birmingham has grown significantly over the past few years, with a number of new arts venues thriving in the city. “I think what will be really important going forward is ensuring that art spaces have support in facing the changes HS2 brings to Digbeth,” says Suzi. And Joyce agrees. “Funding has always been an issue with the arts. With so many cuts to the arts organisations have to come up with new ways to be self-sufficient. Art brings communities together, so it is the interest of a thriving city to keep this in mind,” she says.
We’re looking forward to these talented artists joining the Bruntwood family and cannot wait to see what fantastic artwork they create as part of their commissions. We will be following their journey over the next year, make sure to see what they get up to on the Bruntwood Twitter and Instagram pages, or follow the artists themselves @joycetreasure and @suziosborn.