“The Lombard Method is an artist-led studio and project space in Birmingham inaugurated in
2009. The Lombard Method aims to develop the individual practices of its members through
critical dialogue, group interaction, and engagement with a programme of residencies,
exhibitions and events held in our project spaces.”
There are seven founding members who all work as directors of The Lombard Method. Today
I will be talking to Joanne Masding, one of the founding members.
So Joanne, The Lombard Method has been running for three years now, who first came up with the idea of creating the collective in Birmingham?
The 7 directors of The Lombard Method either studied together, or met through Eastside
Projects (Birmingham based gallery) associate scheme Extra Special People. We were all recent graduates looking for studios and particularly wanted to work alongside each other in an environment that encouraged conversation about our practices, so that the space should be quite open and communal. This didn’t exist already in Birmingham, so we set it up ourselves. The Lombard Method now has 12 open plan studios, and 2 project spaces.
Why did you decide to set up in Birmingham?
I grew up in Birmingham and moved back here after university, and all the other directors
studied here and stayed. I think rather than deciding to start something in Birmingham, it was
deciding not to move away that was important. In the three years that I’d been at university the art activity in the city had increased substantially. It felt like an exciting time to be in Birmingham, and that we could find a place within it and contribute to its growth.
The artistic community in Birmingham is quite small compared to places such as London, do you think it is going to grow and develop in years to come?
Yes. I think the perception of the art scene in Birmingham is improving, and that this is down
to the quality of its output. Galleries here such as Grand Union, Eastside Projects and Ikon
put on consistently interesting and challenging shows, and artists like Ruth Claxton and Stuart
Whipps are based here and internationally renowned. I think people are starting to realise it’s
a good place to be.
The Lombard Method members seem to have different interests and practices, do you find this makes you as a collective more interesting, and do you ever exhibit together outside of The Lombard Method studios?
Our practices are disparate, and not all of The Lombard Method directors would call themselves artists, so we generally don’t exhibit altogether. We were invited to make a group exhibition for Article, the gallery at Birmingham City University, and this has been the exception. There are cross-overs between some of our practices that mean exhibiting together in smaller groups makes more sense. Between us we have a large range of practical skills and research interests, which makes for a full workshop and lively discussion, both of which benefit the artists that work with us.
I know that you have been involved in events in Manchester and Bristol, do you collaborate and work often with artists and organisations in these two cities?
We’ve been involved in artist-led networking events across the UK, which have often resulted
in further collaboration. The Lombard Method were invited to host part of ‘Meanwhile in
Manchester’, which was an exhibition exchange between Rogue Studios, Manchester,
and Eastside Projects, Grand Union and The Lombard Method, Birmingham, organised
by Magnus Quaife. The following year we invited Magnus to undertake a residency at The
Lombard Method, under the guise of Malgras|Naudet, where he worked with a group of artists on ‘The Estate of Alex Bloom’, a project exploring working with another artists work.
Could you tell me about your latest event, ‘Flap-Jacques Derrida’, and how you came to take part in it?
‘Flap-Jacques Derrida’ was our contribution to Spike Island Open, where we were invited
to undertake a residency in the associate space. It’s the third incarnation of an ongoing
project where we use a modifiable and portable stand as a point for opening conversation. We offered Derrida texts and flapjacks as a means of entering into dialogue with the audience and the project evolved tangentially over the course of the weekend through our conversations. We met Marianne McQuay, curator at Spike Island, at the networking event ‘Dense Cluster’ in 2010, and have kept in touch.
You have chosen two artists, Jack Branscomb and Katherine Fishman for this years graduate residency prize. During the residency do you encourage the artists to work together and do you offer mentoring sessions, what is involved in the residency?
The graduate residency focuses on bridging the gap from student to professional by offering a workspace within a supportive critical environment. We want the residency to be as useful as possible for the artists and leave it largely unstructured. We hold a group crit with The Lombard Method directors in the middle of the residency, and support the artists in the realisation of a final event, which could be a talk, open studio, exhibition or something else entirely.
Do you often keep in touch with the winners from previous years and continue to offer support and guidance?
We’ve kept in touch with most of the artists we’ve worked with previously and are happy to
provide support where we can.
Which event or exhibition have you enjoyed taking part in the most, or found the most successful?
Our most ambitious project to date was our contribution to The Event 2011, which is a visual
art festival in Birmingham. We opened up our building to 10 galleries from across the UK,
transforming the space into a site of dialogue and survey of the supportive networks that had been so important to us since we started. The result was a concatenation of exhibitions,
screenings, and performances across 4 floors, the front of our building and the roof.
The Lombard Method has just been awarded its first Grants for the Arts Award, which we’re
really excited about, so we’re busy working on a programme of residencies, exhibitions and
events, which will take place over the next 12 months.