Joanne Masding Flimsy Signals Cornerblock Grand Union Birmingham

    Blog, Birmingham

    Back in November 2018, Birmingham-based artist, Joanne Masding created Flimsy Signals, a permanent installation made especially for Cornerblock. The commission, which we developed with our partners at Grand Union, uses flowing fabric panels draped across sculpted copper hooks to reflect the movement of customers throughout the building. Images of textured hands shift across the lightweight fabric animation frames to create gestures that unfold around the walls.


    “I wanted the work to consider the exchanges that take place in this space,” explains Joanne, “moving hands acting out basic forms of ambiguous, non-verbal communication that might be read as directing, welcoming, halting.” Situated in the main entrance to Cornerblock, seen by customers and visitors everyday, Joanne thought of Flimsy Signals as a member of the community. “The frames of images overlay to become animated passages and the lightweight panels move as people walk by.”

    Working predominantly in sculpture, this was Joanne’s first permanent commission, taking a slight detour from the materials she has often come to use such as clay, metal, plaster and printed surface. “To think about object making, and as a strategy for working within the context of a museum or archive, I use re-making as a methodology to turn inaccessible, special things into new versions that I can know physically,” explains Joanne.

    This love of material and object making has also led Joanne to her role as Director Member of co-operative ceramics studio Modern Clay, where she makes work, and runs workshops for the public and for groups through partnerships with local charities. “I’m interested in how the messy and playful processes involved in making sculptures can be applied to working with language and writing, and thinking about how art can travel to people as books or through digital space.”

    Prior to this, Joanne’s works were for the most part for exhibition in galleries, what Joanne describes as “protected spaces that tell the viewer how to experience and engage with the works within them.” Through the commission for Bruntwood, Joanne was able to “make work that would have to live in and respond to another context: being met by people as part of their daily working lives, outside of the gallery environment.” We were [delighted] to be able to give the space to incorporate a long life-span into the ideas within Joanne’s work. 


    Art is renowned for generating discussion and we believe that by showcasing artwork in environments beyond the constraints of galleries and museums, we are able to provide a unique platform for debate. By creating areas for reflection and relaxation through art, the wellbeing of our customers can be vastly improved, stimulating mental processes and encouraging a sense of community.

    Bruntwood has always been passionate and committed to supporting and celebrating art and artists. We understand the benefits it can bring to workplaces, enlivening spaces and offering opportunities to both the people within our buildings, but also local people who work in the creative industries.

    In particular, we are proud that our commitment to art provides a platform for emerging creative talent and supports the creative institutions in our cities. At the heart of our partnership with Grand Union, a gallery and artists studio complex in Digbeth, is the Artist in Residence programme at Cornwall Buildings, through which we welcome two artists yearly to the building's studio space for free to develop their work, receive expert advice from the Grand Union team, and benefit from exhibition opportunities.

    Joanne has had a studio at Grand Union since 2017, equipping her with an environment that complements the work she is making and a group of artists to work alongside, share ideas and inspire one another. And it’s this connection and support from Grand Union that brought along with it the opportunity to complete the commission for Bruntwood.

    Since making Flimsy Signals, Joanne has been focusing her time on #makefuturevillagehistory, a commission for a permanent public artwork for a new housing development in Cardiff, Wales, with Studio Response on behalf of Persimmon Homes. “I’ve worked with residents to imagine the identity of the new village and think about how they want its history recorded,” says Joanne. “Through clay making workshops we made hundreds of objects in response to questions prompts such as 'What gift would you leave for an archaeologist of the future?'” The objects created now live as an underground artwork after being thrown into a pit dug into a green on the site, with the idea that they will be discovered and deciphered by future civilians. Cast bronze symbols based on the residents’ creations have been embedded into coloured tarmac shapes across the development. These will act as the permanent artwork, due for installation in Spring next year.

    Alongside her practice, Joanne also runs Studio Outlet, an online shop selling objects made by artists. “I initiated Studio Outlet in 2018 to support artists by getting their works into the world to be lived with and appreciated, and to give those who want to invest in artists a route to do so,” says Joanne. Lifting up others is of clear importance to Jo, having recently been awarded an Associate Artist Award from Henry Moore Foundation for her work supporting artists working in the field of sculpture. “I’ll be working with this support over the coming months to develop a new body of work, which is – excitingly – quite unknown at this stage,” says Joanne. Be sure to keep an eye out for this and more of Jo’s great work.

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