All 18 of our artists have been commissioned to produce a piece of work based on their experiences, ideas and thoughts during lockdown. Below is a snapshot of work in progress and the thought processes behind each artists piece….
Lockdown Spring 2020 came and went, it was a glorious spring with blue skies and warm days. Nature thrived and flourished, rewilding the world whilst we stayed home. We viewed the world through our windows, we supported the NHS, we sewed masks, aprons, scrubs and the colour blue, symbolic of the NHS, was mirrored in the blue spring sky.
Within my commission I wanted to capture key moments of our lockdown world alongside the natural world. Going into the second lockdown phrases like ‘the seasons are against us’ were an ominous contrast to the ‘glorious spring’ lockdown.
Throughout the pandemic I have noted key words and phrases which have defined stages of COVID-19 and its effect on our lives. ‘Ramblings of lockdown’ – words collected from all media including social media, tv and news reports etc.
Incorporating lockdown words within natural backgrounds and forms was my starting point. Initially exploring direct printing from natural sources (eco printing/ ‘Hapa Zome’) which gave interesting results but as they weren’t light fast / permanent I moved onto experimenting with cyanotype printing – using the sun and plants to create striking silhouettes in shades of blue.
My collection of lockdown words resonate with the textile scrolls of Lorina Bulwer (Thackery Museum, Leeds) created whist she was forced to live in a workhouse in the 1890s. Like Lorina we are unable to move around the world as we once did and like Lorina lockdown is having a profound effect on our mental health and wellbeing. The words she stitched on scraps of fabric echo the ‘ramblings of lockdown 2020’ handwritten strings of words I’ve transferred onto silk, some embellished and stitched.
Representational of personal experience of family life 2020, this piece is constructed from willow and part covered with wet strength tissue, collaged with the fabric of life; home school work sheets, coffee filter papers, covid test instructions….
The family nest grows into a cocoon; maybe a chrysalis that will flourish one day, but not today.
Safety, isolation, comfort, together, alone; all life is here, containing our existence, threads weave in and tease out.
A viewer may glimpse but never experience what it feels like to be inside another’s world.
Wo ist Feenland? Where is fairyland?
In May 2020 I was invited by Katrin Schyn, a freelance performer from Theaterhaus in Frankfurt, Germany to create a show for 2 – 6 year olds with herself and Margie King, another freelance performer. The piece had to respond to what was going on in the world but without making direct reference to the pandemic. Our starting point was a two metre long table and the performers as fairies.
So, on day one of devising this new show I asked Margie and Katrin to put on their fairy wings and I told them one was travelling from east and going west and the other travelling from west and going east and that both would end up crashlanding on the table. From that point on we realised we had a story of fairies being “grounded” and decided this was due to the wind disappearing and that as a consequence they were going to have to get used to a new way of being on the ground and with each other. So, a fairy story emerged paralleling all our experiences of being grounded and the changes that have confronted us.
I would like to use my commission money from Skippko to perform a version of this in England for children and their families in Leeds. I have invited Madeleine Thorn to perform in this piece with me as we have a long track record of working together to create pocket sized theatre shows that tour community groups. If you look at the picture, Madeleine will be acting “Star” the fairy on the left and I will be acting “Shooting” the fairy on the right. We would be aiming to perform from March 2021 onwards with four shows.
When Boris announced on 24 March 2020 – a date that will always stick in my mind, that the whole country was going into ‘lockdown’ I felt a strange mix of ‘we’re all in this together’ and ‘I’m not going to cope very well with this and the restriction to stay at home’, as someone who’s used to spending most time away from home – at work, visiting friends, being outdoors…
Early on in lockdown I decided to clear out my very messy conservatory space and it soon became my ‘safe and secure’ space to sit, think about things, look out at the garden and work. Life became much smaller in the physical sense, in the initial days only venturing to the garden or local shop. Having a routine helped enormously and I started to make sketches in the garden as a way to start the day – being in the moment, looking closely at details, connecting with nature and appreciating the things on my doorstep.
The first piece in my commission is a small clear house that represents my conservatory, made as a drypoint – a printmaking method I often use in my work, although I’ve never worked in 3D before. The ‘house’ has been printed flat before being constructed 3D and shows one of the first drawings I did of some daffodil bulbs coming up in a pot in the garden.
My 2nd piece represents the world opening up a little as during one of my daily walk allowances I discovered a place on my doorstep that I hadn’t known existed – a small area of woodland next to a railway line. I remember feeling an overwhelming sense of excitement at being amongst the trees and hearing the birdsong, without the background noise of traffic and aircraft.
My 2nd larger house represents the world opening up a little as I discovered more about my local area through walking and taking paths without knowing where I would end up. It’s constructed using an OS map of my area and origami techniques and will include a drawing of the tree that first excited me and gave a little bit of joy at an otherwise difficult time.
I’ve been reading about trees, how they ‘look after’ each other and the advantages of working together by sharing nutrients through their roots, and the mental wellbeing benefits of nature.
I’d like to take some of these ideas into my 3rd and largest piece, which is yet to be made, looking at what positives we can take forward from this whole experience and how as a project manager at Skippko I can use these lessons to benefit the people we work with, as we explore ideas around isolation, mental wellbeing and re-connecting.
Behind Closed Doors, my piece will capture something of the strangeness of this universal experience.
On the face of it, the whole world has gone through the same thing – we have all been shaken by the pandemic. We have all been stopped in our tracks, separated from those we love, denied income, forced to adapt to something frightening and unseen.
Yet we all have our own unique set of circumstances which continue to shape the way we experience COVID-19.
We have existed entirely within the confines of our own four walls, behind closed doors, for far longer than we ever imagined we would. Some of us have lost people, some of us have learned things, some of us have taken up hobbies, some of us have struggled, some of us have flourished, some of us have had something of a sliding scale of an experience, punctuated by one or more unimaginable event.
Behind Closed Doors aims to tell some of these stories, in people’s own words, with soundbites. Accompanying this audio exhibit, will be two floor to ceiling murals. Each will resemble a very busy Zoom screen, with pictures sitting side by side in a grid. One will be the faces of all those whose stories I have recorded. The other will be a collection of corresponding abstract images – the picture which represents the swan’s feet, paddling frantically beneath the surface of the water. The real behind closed doors version of reality.
THE SCHUMANN RESONANCES are global electromagnetic resonances, generated and excited by lightning discharges in the cavity formed by the Earth’s surface and the ionosphere. Essentially they are the naturally occurring sound of the earths atmosphere.
Whilst we all live within the same atmosphere, we all experience it in vastly different ways, and because of the global Covid 19 pandemic, these differences are especially apparent right now.
I intend to broadcast the Schumann Resonances, individually and simultaneously, online. These will be accompanied by relative, pitch shifted frequencies so as to be audible by the human ear. I am asking friends, and the wider public to place a speaker next to an open a window in the place where they live, and simultaneously film and sound record this moment.
There will be five separate streams. Participants will be allocated only one stream to record. All film and sound recordings will then be re-combined to form an installation, initially on line at http://www.napoleoniiird.com and then within a gallery space once this is again possible.
…….It is also interesting to note that some believe the human body can be influenced by the resonant frequencies around us, and that these frequencies can effect human and animal behaviour and emotion. There is also the belief that an increase in resonant frequencies could affect humanity as a whole, causing a global rise in anxiety and tension, as well as passion.
Mary Queen of Lockdown
Mary Queen of Lockdown is a video installation, featuring top tips on how to survive the current Covid-19 restrictions from celebrity internee Mary Queen of Scots. Mary will offer us her thoughts on looking good, staying positive and being politically active whilst dealing with the strictures of an oppressive and antagonistic government.
My Lockdown: diary days
I’ve never kept a diary before, I never felt the need, but the Coronavirus changed all that.
Back in March as lockdown began, I knew I had to do something, and what I could do was to document and record my response to Covid-19. I didn’t know how I was going to do it but felt it was my responsibility to find a way to do so.
My diary has become my sanctuary, my hanky and my sanity or insanity depending on your perspective! It’s given me focus and structure and a way of processing my feelings of what I’m witnessing and living through.
To date (end of November) my diary has 75 days and each day is a photograph, a blend of image and words – together they tell my story of that particular day. Sometimes it’s the image that sparks the words and sometimes the words ignite the image.
My lockdown diary continues to continue ….
The White Man™ Identity Standards Manual
‘As with any identity guidelines The White Man™ Identity Standards Manual exists to help in the creation of correct homogeneous iterations of our identity across all contexts — ensuring they always reflect the Pillars which support and maintain our power and position of supremacy within the marketplace.’
The White Man™ Identity Standards Manual is satirical exploration of the link between white male identity and power, presented in the format of a corporate brand manual.
Bricks and Batts
At the start of Covid we were putting together the Women reflecting on Women project. I had sewn up the giant bunting that had been put together in the pop up sessions and wanted to do something with them. On one of my daily walks I took photos of brick walls to use as a background for the bunting and to practise my lockdown acquisition of Photoshop Elements.
I’ve always loved seeing the variety of patterns and colours that can be found in stone and bricks, but I was also very conscious of how shut in and shut off so many of us were during Lockdown behind our brick walls. I started making brick coloured pieces of felt and adding images showing feelings / fleeting moments / good things and bad things. Some of the images look flippant, but sometimes humour is a way to get through difficult times. Many of the feelings are shown through Emoji type images and there are lots of references to computer and phone apps. At the start of Covid, in our desperation to keep in touch and communicate, Whatsapp and Facebook groups proliferated. Online video calls became normal. (So normal that when one colleague who I had been working with over Zoom for 7 weeks told me she had tested positive, I immediately wondered if I should isolate, before realising I hadn’t actually seen her in person for two months). The divide between those who could connect digitally and those who couldn’t dramatically increased.
Some of the images will connect with everybody, especially in the first panel. As time goes on we have experienced different things and some of the images are more personal. These are samples and snippets of feelings, thoughts and events…there were many more.
The numbers on the black bricks all represent specific numbers that have been quoted over the last months. I will definitely write text with one line explanations of these. At times it felt like the news was all about numbers and death tolls, but not all the numbers refer directly to the disease itself.
The blue bricks represent the ‘curve’ and this will become more obvious as more panels are completed. They also represent the roller coaster of emotions I and many others experienced. They could also represent the incredibly steep digital (and other things) learning curve I have been on in the last 6 months!
Taking inspiration from a previous postcard project I had worked on in 2014, I posted stamped postcards to various friends, family, colleagues and other artists with the following remit: I will send you some stamped postcards and you would add something to them and post them back to me. The theme is isolation and lockdown, but it’s a wide brief, I don’t want to be too specific. It can be observations, ramblings, jokes, drawings, or whatever else is in your head at the time. I want to end up with an assortment of postcards from various people that will represent a snapshot of this weird time.
I received over 100 postcards and they are currently available to view via the following website: https://thelockdownpostcardproject.wordpress.com/
I’m currently working on a physical artwork to display the postcards, to be ready for a future exhibition showcasing the commissions.
‘Dance with me, a socially-distanced dance’
This piece is a response to the first few months of lockdown, the rules, etiquette, confusion, created by signage as well as uncertainty.
It struck me that the unspoken understanding of how to navigate personal and public spaces was disrupted and rewritten almost overnight, driven by fear.
People became unsure how to behave around each other. Walking along a narrow pavement and throwing themselves into the road, or diving into nettles, to avoid passing within 2 metres.
The feelings of anger that arose when people reached over to get items from supermarket shelves. ‘Too close, Too CLOSE’. and the loss of touch, the lack of any human physical contact.
Hugs to maintain mental wellbeing, the effect of losing this.
Hands (not) touching through a sheet of glass.
This work will use expanded animation to guide the audience through the space, exploring the tension between this longing for physical contact and the need to stay safe.
My commission is about boundaries, the physical and metaphorical stretching and breaching over lockdown, grids and containment, personal stories, media symbolism and cliches, and government rhetoric.
At the start of lockdown I kept a diary of my immediate situation, of losing all my work, wading through the bureaucratic system of Universal credit, safeguarding my elderly mother.
Each day I photographed a moment that had resonance for me that day, I filmed some of my daily walks and sent them to my mother who remained in isolation, listened and drew birdsong in my garden and started writing to do lists to order my days. I cleared my studio and set it up as a working ceramics studio with the second-hand equipment I had stored and emptied and reorganised my workshop and put up with the regular loud drunken outdoor parties next door from a neighbour that had no concept of lockdown and social distancing, while my neighbours on the other side spent 12 hour shifts with coronavirus patients in BRI.
The irony of being in the middle of polar opposites was my starting point. I found the deeds to my house and drew to scale mine and immediate neighbours houses and gardens which I cast in plaster showing the negative spaces that we each inhabited. I was impressing into clay to add texture which made me reconsider what I wanted to explore.
Currently I am creating a series of slabs/boxes from recycled clay impressed with images and words to document personal stories, wider societal issues, imaging, media headlines and cliches, graphs and government statements which overlap and overlay on the clay. These will reference a grid or paving slabs which at the moment I am aiming to display on the ground (this may change!).
I am wanting to use recycled clay to reference my workshop made from and kitted out with recycled materials including the paving slabs, along with my studio that houses the second-hand equipment that re-affirms my artist practice in my current situation. The slabs/boxes have to fit and fire in my old kiln and at present I am not sure how many of these I will make but it will be a minimum of 12. I may also cast the negative space between the slabs in plaster that will stand alone as a separate sculpture but again this may change!
I split my time between the UK and Lanzarote and as such the pandemic has had a huge impact on my way of life. In March I was in the UK working on a number of projects with Skippko, Leeds Art Gallery and Yorkshire Sculpture Park. On 12th March, I saw on the news that the Spanish government was closing all of its borders and going into a full lockdown. I quickly changed my flights so I could return to Lanzarote and spend lockdown in the sun – however it was not that simple. Eight bookings, three failed trips to airports for flights that never went and two days later I finally arrived in Lanzarote to a country in a strict military enforced lockdown.
Lockdown in Lanzarote lasted 99 days (including the de-escalation phase of 21 days), and for the most part it was incredibly strict. You were not allowed to leave your house for anything except an essential weekly shop at your closest supermarket, which you had to do alone. You were not allowed out to exercise, to go to school or to work (unless a key worker) and you were only allowed to walk your dog 50m away from your registered address. Police and army vehicles patrolled the streets enforcing the rules and dishing out fines. Council vehicles crawled through the villages broadcasting pre-recorded messages in multiple languages reminding residents to “Quedate en casa” (stay home).
I was commissioned to create a piece of artwork reflecting my experiences about half way through this time of ‘confinamiento’ (lockdown) and I wasn’t sure what to do or where to go with an artwork. I felt overwhelmed by the unfamiliarity of the situation, the sheer amount of information I was consuming about the pandemic and the sense that I had never felt so far from home. As we approached the “new normal,” I decided to explore these feelings for this commission through a digital diary.
On day 1 of the new normal I posted a photograph I had taken that day with some written thoughts on an Instagram account named @anewnorm2020. On a parallel account named @anewnorm2020incontext, I posted 10 screenshots of news stories, anonymised quotes from Facebook, presidential tweets and anything else that fed into my experience that day. I continued for 99 days, the same amount of time I was in lockdown. I recorded travels to the UK for work, worries and fears about elderly family members, moments of hope and moments of total despair. I documented government tag lines, keep your distance lines and socially distanced lines of people queuing for the corner shop.
The 99 days ended on 27th September and I am left with a very noticeable vacancy in my schedule where I used to consider and upload my commission. The accounts carry so much information I feel like audience members could get lost if the material is presented in its entirety, unedited. But how? How to edit out any part of this surreal experience and make it still feel whole and authentic? This is my challenge now.
This is a detail of a sculpture I’m working on at the moment. I’ve decided to go down the food route and have been experimenting with rice paper, which is used as a wrap for making summer rolls. For those who are unfamiliar with my work, I take inspiration from my heritage and identity, usually in a 3D format, using medium in their natural forms whenever possible like wood, stone, clay, rice.
I have been working on this theme for years now and the ideas came together during lockdown. This piece is part of a wider narrative and involves a few characters. Pan is her name, Monkey is another.
The contentious source (or one of) of the corona virus was from a pangolin, and I thought this fits in with my story. The pangolin is critically endangered and is the most trafficked animal in the world (its meat is a delicacy, their scales for medicinal use) and is linked, possibly, to Covid-19.