Artists Tony McClure and Suzie Hunt recently completed Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery’s annual Whitworth Wallis Residency for graduates from Birmingham School of Art. Selected by Lisa Beauchamp, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, Tony and Suzie are the first artists to have undertaken this residency as a collaborative one. They have been based in Gallery 15 throughout the four-week period of the residency.
Tony notes “The residency has been a very different way of working. It’s been a shift changing to making together after coming from 5 years of individual practice and research. But I was confident that we would work well together and we have been looking at many overlapping ideas.”
Rather than physically making work together, the artists have instead been researching, talking and developing public workshops together, combining their research from different perspectives. Period s of time spent apart have fuelled discussions the next time they met at the gallery.
The residency portion of the project has concluded with a display of work in progress in Gallery 15. Their display is a “live sketchbook of ideas, a place to pick out patterns and develop ideas really quickly,” says Tony. It comprises of drawings, photographs and text-based pieces on walls and table tops that map out their areas of interest, and has been a space where ideas and works have been constantly moving and altering. Both artists are working toward developing proposals to be shown as part of an exhibition at the gallery in the new year.
Suzie’s approach to the residency has been to seek out some of the hidden collections within the buildings that belong to Birmingham Museums Trust such as the very small collection of windows that let in daylight and the multiple light boxes that instead illuminate many of the spaces. Her photographs of frosted glass, ceiling lights and windows explore how the landscape and sky behind is framed, creating abstract views. Other of her works use drawing to map the movements of visitors through the different rooms of the gallery, considering the navigation of the space when looking at works of art. She notes that a visit to the Museum Collections Centre naturally “created the desire to look upwards at the shelves of objects; glimpsing upwards and noticing skylights that appear like paintings.”
Tony also began by looking at light within the building, shadows and glass lenses. He was interested in the ways that works were stored in the Museum Collections Centre – where a contemporary photograph might butt up against a historical painting, for instance. This layering of time has informed his approach to making. Considering how contemporary works are acquired because they are deemed to be of future historical significance feeds into a series of text based pieces which play with these ideas. The patina of a stereoscope once owned by Joseph Chamberlain and intermittent reflections of light on the wall of Gallery 15 that have created a camera obscura have also influenced this thinking.
Both artists will work on developing their proposals for exhibition. These will be considered by the boards of Birmingham Museums Trust and those that administer the Whitworth Wallis fund for a display in March 2018.