Introducing Rose and Joy Broadbent, sister duo and collaborative artists. Strongly connected, their multidisciplinary and meditative approach to art creates a fresh and unique experience for the community. Delving in everything from painting to performance and sculpture, the Broadbent sisters transform everyday spaces into magical and nurturing realms where sparkles are swept and energy flows. I payed the pair a visit at their very own Studio 835, which resulted in a stirring conversation about collective musing, stream of consciousness and the essentiality of artistic naïvety.
How did Studio 835 begin?
Rose: We’ve had the main floor studio for three years, where we get messy and make art, and just got the downstairs space under a year ago. Through sharing the space we started playing with the idea of collaboration. That’s where it all started.
What’s the first moment you can remember about creating art?
R: I would say my first memory is of an art history children’s book we had. I remember it specifically because it didn’t just have simple drawings, it had beautiful paintings, such as Rousseau…I remember staring at the pages for hours on end.
Joy: Our parents were very encouraging as well. They’re not artists themselves, but our grandmother was. My first memory is very clear: I remember visiting a painter when I was three and she took me aside in her studio (my parents probably needed to chill) and said: “Look out the window at the trees. What colours do you see?”. I was like “Pink, purple, orange.” She told my parents later that I could see the real colours and we painted together and made this picture which had a huge impact on me.
R: That painting is actually still up in our parents’ house. It’s beautiful, better than anything I could paint today! (laughs)
How would you describe your aesthetic?
J: Clearing Spaces. We’ve always had a multidisciplinary approach and we always bring the theme “clearing spaces” into our art. We do everything from performance to sculptures, all of this to create a transformative experience. Because we have a very meditative process the art kind of rises to the surface.
R: You can see the process of meditation in our work: there’s a lot of material, various textures, transforming images…I think that describes what our art is like.
Do you have a certain process with which you approach artist’s block?
R: We have coffee together and talk every morning. It’s the daily routine that allows the art to flow through us so we’re on the same page. If you meet and talk every day it becomes very easy to make work. Often what we do if we are having any sort of block, is stream of consciousness writing. We see these overlapping themes and recurring words come to light and it’s amazing! I mean, we’re sisters, so we for sure have some sort of connection
J: We call it the third muse or the “good muse”. Both of us have our own separate work going on, but when we come together it’s a completely different experience that forms this unique aesthetic that differs from our individual art.
Tell us about “Clearing Spaces”, the latest show you had at Hunt Club.
R: We created a surreal spa in the gallery. We set up five massage chairs where we massaged all of our viewers, there were some sculptural pieces, incense, melodic music that sort of created a very soothing vibe.
J: We were sweeping sparkles, doing very domestic things, serving our viewers and the art.
What’s the most difficult part of performance?
R: The aftermath. I’ve heard this quote that performance art is very different from performing art. In performing art, the viewer is changed and through performance what is transformed is the artist. We were clearing these spaces and I don’t think we knew how powerful the impact was going to be on us.
J: We already have the next show in our heads, all about filling the cleared space. If you’re going to fill a space with light, you have to be as prepared as you are when you clear it. The transformative impact is strong, so we have to be strong as well.
Is there a lot of preparation involved?
J: Absolutely. To prepare for “Clearing Spaces” we went to a spa ourselves. Self soothing, we got massages. Meditation is always extremely important as well, both together and separate. I was a little nervous, with everything we had going on, but it seamed together perfectly.
Were you pleased with the reactions?
R: We got amazing reactions and really good reviews. We had people writing to us the next day saying that it had been beautiful and powerful and healing…we felt so thankful that they had picked up on that because that’s what our work is all about.
J: We approached it very playfully, through a kind of satire. We didn’t take it so seriously and we were a little surprised, in a good way, at how serious it turned out.
What’s it like working from Toronto?
R: The networks that we have are so supportive. Everyone is at everybody else’s show, sharing each other’s photos. I have to say Hunt Club has been a huge support, and I see the community is changing in a good way.
J: I think Toronto is starting to open up slowly, people are starting to get more excited about art, and that’s something we want to develop. We want to nurture community and push the boundaries of the expectations of the gallery. This is one of the reasons we wanted to give massages at our show. Everyone felt more relaxed and able to see the art in a new way.
Do you think there is still a sense of intimidation in the art community?
R: I think that the artist presence is a little bit lacking in some of the galleries in Toronto. When you are in your space during the show it makes a huge difference to interact with your viewers, whether it’s just talking with them or thanking them for coming. When the artist is present those walls break down and people can connect to the art.
J: Sometimes the art world can feel a bit cold, which I’m sure is part of our Canadian culture too. We’re so polite and reserved, so we’re hoping that the warmth of encouraging people to experience art will change that.
R: There is also something small about Toronto that allows people to rise, it’s a very connected network.
Are there any artists that have been a big influence in your work?
R: M.I.A., who we saw last year. We aren’t musicians ourselves, but music is a huge influence for us. It’s an intense muse that flows through our artwork, whether we’re listening to music while making our work or playing it during a show.
J: Matthew Barney in the sense that he pushes his central theme into all mediums, and there is a quality to his work that we aspire to. Frida as well: her struggle in life, how hard she worked. James Turrell’s meditative staircases and use of light.
R: Then there are the people that surround us everyday, that are in our studio space such as, Amina Moon, Anuta Skrypka, Drew Shannon, Menalon Music, The New Beat, Dustin Rabin, and Randall Okita. There are so many others in our Toronto art community such as: Mahmood Popal, Danielle Hession, Lauren Pirie, Josh Raskin, Randy Grskovic, Rodrigo Marti and of course our brother Justin Broadbent!
J: I think we need to nurture artists. They’re the voice of change. I’m sick of people saying things like “Oh, it’s good style, good design.” It’s creative change. We need more artists when developing new ways of innovating systems. It’s very inspiring to see people that are doing it.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
J: You have to trust your intuition. That’s really hard to do sometimes in our world.
R: I think something we preach a lot about is self care. Like we did before “Clearing Spaces”, we went to an actual spa. We needed to be calm and present to be able to give that to the viewers.
J: I think that every good art show or piece, no matter how small, will change you. And to me, that’s the definition of art. If it doesn’t change you, it’s something else. Being involved in art making, I think you get changed quite a bit and if you’re not steady, not self soothing, not grounded you could end up destroying yourself.
Are there any techniques or practices you haven’t experimented with yet and would be interested in delving in?
J: Marble sculptures (laughs). And film, whenever we write proposals for our work it always ends up sounding like a surreal film.
R: Marble for sure (laughs). I think a more filmic approach would be interesting. It’s something we’ve never explored.
What would you never change about each other?
J: I would never change two things about Rose: her determination for one. She’s the organized one, the doer and when she puts her mind to something she does it. Secondly, her ability to bring people together and have fun. She’s the party organizer of life, if you need a party she’s the one that is making it happen. There’s this element in her of wanting community, wanting to reach out, wanting people to have fun.
R: I would say two things as well. I would never change her crazy brain, on the outside she looks so pretty and nice but there’s some messed up, raw stuff that’s going on inside that will just shock you, and I love that about her. And the second thing I’m going to say is that Joy supports so many people, she has a nurturing side. She’s always helping other artists have confidence, I can’t understand how she finds it in herself to do it.