Day by Day: Making Art in Lockdown

It’s been about a month since I last posted on this blog. In between I’ve written posts for the Climate Museum UK blog on suggestions for Acts of Tree Kindness as part of the Urban Tree Festival, and I’ve shared occasional updates on the Ash Tree Stream blog. And in the background the strange life of lockdown has continued.

Some days it feels like we (myself, my husband and my son) are building a new routine, that as old commitments and structures fall away, new opportunities and patterns are emerging. Other days it seems like everything is falling away, and the ‘new’ things are the fragments that I cling on to for my own sanity.

Here’s what I’ve been up to. Gardening, playing with our boy, home schooling, walking, cycling, cooking, thinking about food, ordering food, watching the news, and making space within lockdown life for making artwork. The artwork is necessarily small and woven in and around the rest.

At the moment I’m showing some photographs as part of the Happenings exhibition, which is itself part of Fringe Arts Bath. The photos are part of ‘The Ash Looks Back’ series, images created in collaboration with Ash trees and local animals, using a camera trap.

I recently showed another piece in an online exhibition, this time on Instagram. Water Body (Video Still) was part of the Housebound exhibition from CAS (Chapel Arts Studios). The exhibition is curated by Susan Francis and runs from 8th May to 19th June, focusing on a different room each week.

I’ve also been making new work in response to a group walk that I took part in for the Landlinks project and exhibition. A walk where we each were given the same script, the same list of words to inform what we noticed, and yet all walked in different places in different countries. Since the walk I’ve been developing new photographic work in my garden, based on my experinces. You can read my interview for the Landlinks project here.

One of the main ways I’ve maintained my practice in the weeks since lockdown is to keep my Kitchen Sketchbook going. Even in a day full of other commitments I can take it with me from room to room and record my experiences, thoughts and feelings, or layer materials together.

In addition I’m now a member of an artist’s group called People and Place (PaP). We have started up a mail art project between us, using either Royal Mail or Email to experiment with ways of making art about People and Place whilst at a distance from each other. The group has been set up by Laura Eldret of More Than Ponies, and is supported by A Space Arts. There’s a list of the artists involved and more information on PaP (Mail) here. I’m going to be gathering my own offering together for everyone over this next week.

And what next? I don’t feel able to plan for the long term right now, to know what will be possible more than a few weeks ahead, so I’m very thankful for an Arts Council England Emergency Fund grant that I’m hoping will arrive in my bank account in the coming days. I’m going to use it to buy me some time and develop this current work into something that can ultimately become a longer a term ‘offer’.

I’m going to develop interactive artwork linked to my work with Climate Museum UK, that can support people to explore their own local environment, and I’m also looking at developing new ways of using my everyday art practices to support others’ wellbeing. The funding will enable me to take what has worked best for me and translate that into a format that can work for others.

It’s a slower process than usual, it’s very much about working day to day, noticing what wants to emerge, what fits with my current needs and what I hope will benefit others. My discussions with colleagues on the Climate Museum UK team, within the PaP group, and on social media, are what is informing my current practice, as well as the stimulation and constraints of family life.

I’m enjoying the collaborative aspects and the everyday, adaptive nature of the media that I’m using. The changes that I talked about in previous posts (Untangling: Sharing the Words from a Walking Diary and Weaving a Thread of Normality) are still challenging, and I have my difficult days where I miss being with other people in more tangible ways, but day by day my practice is evolving to adapt.

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