Supporting Birmingham's artistic talent

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After this successful first year, together with our friends at Grand Union, we were pleased to welcome our 2020 residents back in February this year. Working in film, performance, installation and spatial design, artists Laura Cooper and JJ Guest have spent time developing their work in the free studio space, including over the lockdown period.

JJ Guest

With a background in installation and spatial design, visual artist, JJ Guest, creates work that subverts the ideas of 'masculinity' by breaking down the 'masculine' form and physique and presents it as something constructed and disjointed, rather than inherently powerful.

Throughout his residency, JJ has been creating multi-faceted works using video, collage, photography, installation and sculpture. "The residency will allow me to fully develop any ideas and allow them to transcend mediums without the limits that briefs and deadlines have placed on my commissioned work," he explains. "With CV-19 causing uncertainty for most people, it has been especially challenging for creatives. The studio space at Cornwall Buildings has been a source of stability and security during this time, allowing for me to maintain momentum and continue to work towards the goals I had set for this year.”

Laura Cooper
Looking into how we relate to others, Laura Cooper’s work reaches towards unknown territories, exploring human relationships with nature and other animals. She makes work in film, performance and installation, combining the documentary with the poetic and participatory.

Laura is using the residency to develop current projects exploring how the urban environment shapes and choreographs our awareness and how we can learn from other species. "During the residency I will develop my project 'The Future is Soft', which explores Equine Assisted Learning—a new field of research in which horses are used in business leadership and communication training programs to establish alternative forms of power. In light of the current crisis, this project has a new resonance, reimagining power structures through interspecies encounters, considering how we might want to be led and work together”.

“Many social and political inequalities have been heightened through COVID-19. However, as a new mother during Lockdown, I have appreciated the opportunity to slow down and notice the natural world around me. I started a project making natural inks from foraged plants, gathered on walks around my neighbourhood. These lockdown colour-driven walks have grown into a way of understanding time and materiality of more-than-human worlds throughout the city".

Grand Union Artists in Residence poster: orange background with a photo of a horse and a photo of two men hugging.

Through the artist-in-residency programme, and our partnership with Grand Union, we aim to nurture talent in the art community and provide opportunities for growth. By homing artists in a business community, this encourages experimentation and the cross-fertilisation of ideas. Through our network, we are able to tap artists into new audiences for contemporary art practice through our customer community and the wider public.

In 2019, we welcomed our first ever Grand Union artists-in-residence, Joyce Treasure and Suzi Osborn. Working from our dedicated studio space at Cornwall Buildings, the two Birmingham-based artists produced engaging artwork and exhibitions, developed intriguing and insightful research, worked on new commissions and hosted workshops for our customers at Cornwall Building in Birmingham.

For our second year, throughout 2020 Laura and JJ have received mentoring from Grand Union’s curatorial team and are invited to take part in both Grand Union and Bruntwood events. Due to the pandemic, much of our previously planned activity was halted and as a result, we have collectively agreed to extend the residency for a further year, so that Laura and JJ have a better opportunity to engage with the local community as we emerge from the pandemic.

Rob Valentine, Regional Director, Bruntwood Works said “Our partnership with Grand Union has grown from strength to strength since 2018. We are thrilled to have Laura and JJ with us at Cornwall Building this year - their presence is an invaluable contribution to the cultural vibrancy of our spaces and community at Bruntwood. Whilst it’s not the year any of us expected, by extending the residency to 2022 we hope that it gives us a chance to build on the great momentum we had last year"

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