Week three of the residency at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery followed the continuation of the previous week’s data collecting and reflection.
Building up the material in the studio space is proving useful, while also helping to grab the curiosity of any visitors passing through Gallery 15. Having a constant open studio exposes our research and development to the general public, a completely different dynamic to how we’ve worked before, yet you can see through their inquisitiveness that there is an interest there. That the narrative we are putting forward is beginning to grab the viewer’ attention, which in turn is pushing developments quickly as we begin to focus on final ideas. It has become a key element that is supporting our progress and process.
Curator of History, Jo-Ann Curtis, led a second visit to the Museum Collection Centre. Here she introduced us to historical maps, topographical watercolour & ink works and architectural sketches of Birmingham, in particular its development throughout the city’s history. There was a range of different captures of the city by different artists from highly detailed pen work of demolition to very delicate soft skylines at a distance, each conveying its own meaning and why.
In addition, Jo-Ann also described the possible origins of the Stereoscopic viewfinder discovered during the last visit, which Tony was able to use to trace more details about it and its history.
Towards the middle of the week, focus turned to the preparation & marketing for a workshop by Suzie. The free open to the public Monoprint Workshop was a response to the museum’s collection, and an opportunity for the public to experience monoprinting of various types. Exploring drawing and mark-making, they had the choice to either create something original or use photo references of Birmingham sites of interest, and the results varied from highly imaginative to very detailed to colourful abstraction.
The workshop received a great response, with many families getting involved, and children especially taking to the printmaking technique, whilst being encouraged through art to make something they could freely take away with them. Workshop assistance came from Birmingham City University student & artist Boyana Aleksova, and together we handled the chaos and the mess despite the overwhelming attention we needed to give to each budding little artist. Many thanks Boyana!
The rest of the week involved the beginning of a selection process and a refinement of gathered documentation & images, narrowing down the edit to create a source from which to work from. We began to interpret and trace patterns through this further reflection, pushing our individual concepts, bringing them together where they overlapped, creating this central threshold. It is from this pinpoint where we decided the intention would be to continue a more collaborative approach while producing separate potential final pieces. This would ensure that any installation of the final works would complement each other, while retaining an individual voice. This intention includes any development of display mechanisms.
With only a week left until the residencies end it’s easy to forget where the time has been spent, yet we can reflect on the R&D journey we’ve taken, buried amongst (and quickly becoming an addition to) the museum & art gallery collection’s. Despite freely exploring the spaces and exhibitions, the archives and being able to plan days without restriction, without the help of the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery staff, security and the technical team this would have been a much more difficult and slower process. That combined knowledge and experience becomes invaluable when there is a need for an answer or to get a project in motion. And always with a smile too.