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The Sheffield culture guide written by in-the-know locals

Theresa Bruno

Theresa Bruno, with mural by Zoe Genders. Photo by Gemma Thorpe

Mixing ready-made objects with new media, artist Theresa Bruno plays with ideas of power structures and consumer trends. She has fun with the question of the value of art, often creating a monument out of something very ordinary. In one past project, for instance, she made 3D-printed artefacts ranging from the historical (Venus de Milo) to the everyday (a donut). In another, she sold meditative biro drawings at the rate of a minimum-wage six-hour shift – the length of time it took her to make them.

Theresa is one of five emerging artists from Sheffield currently on a two-year residency as part of the Freelands Artist Programme. Each year, Sheffield's Freelands artists take part in the three-venue Platform showcase. Platform 22 is open 26 January–26 February 2023 at Site Gallery, Yorkshire Artspace: Persistence Works, and Bloc Projects.

For her Platform exhibition at Persistence Works, Theresa presents Gargantua. This floor collage and sound piece draws on the last ever printed edition of the Argos catalogue, to explore mass production, neurodiversity and waste.

We spoke to Theresa ahead of the opening of Platform 22.

How would you describe your work?
I collect things from my everyday life and rearrange them to talk about my life experience or topics that I’m interested in. I often outsource things that need making, because I would rather dip in and out of different materials to say lots of different things, than learn the skill of a craft. I want to redefine who and what gets monumentalised, by reframing, playing with and celebrating the mundane, normal and ordinary. At the moment, I am really interested in mixing ready-made found objects with time-based new media like sound and video.

What inspires you?
The beauty of a very ordinary life.

What does being part of the Freelands Artist Programme mean to you?
I moved to Sheffield in 2017 and at that point I was taking an art career break which eventually lasted five years. I decided to return to my practice during covid when I was made redundant. So before the programme, I knew no one in Sheffield’s art community. I also didn’t know many artists that were managing to make a living off their practice. The programme has kick-started everything back up, from meeting the local community, learning how to apply for funding, generating ideas and supporting development of art works. Due to the career break, I’ve lost many of the skills I used to have, and I have felt really out of my depth for most of the programme. I’ve processed and grown a lot.

Theresa Bruno, Gargantua. Photo by Jules Lister

What are you working on next?
I want to finish two pieces this year. One is a carrara marble carving of a Greggs vegan sausage roll. The second is a Christmas tree with a singing bauble which sings Christmas hymns, but explores my bilingual upbringing by mixing the English and Polish languages together. I might experiment into my first sung performance.

Who, what or where should be better known in Sheffield?
The Sheffield Buddhist Centre in Walkley! Buddhism is becoming the primary context for my life, and the centre supports me to help out there 2 days a week. When I’m not working in the art studio, I am usually there, meditating, studying, performing rituals or having fun. The community there is Sheffield’s best kept secret and it’s my jewel of Sheffield!

Platform 22 is open 26 January–26 February 2023 at Site Gallery, Yorkshire Artspace: Persistence Works, and Bloc Projects.

Theresa Bruno, Gargantua. Photo by Jules Lister

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