As you all know, we are in lockdown from the COVID-19 virus. Currently, I am still carrying on with my college work and my tutor suggested I read an article on the Tate website titled ‘Making Art in Isolation’. The article explores different reasons for isolation such as political, geographical, biological and by choice. It also explores how it can benefit the artist, improve their creativity and how to find new ways to find inspiration. In this blog post, I intend to share with you how I am planning to do this and how you can too, whether you are an artist or not.
Firstly, the article brings to light the positives of being in isolation. One of the examples they give is being secluded in your studio where you have the time and space to focus. However, I must raise the question: is this only a benefit if it is a chosen isolation?
Isolation vs. Solitude…
I ask this question because I know that as an individual I can be stubborn at times, and if I haven’t chosen to do something or if I am forced to, I am generally less inclined to do it compared to if I had chosen to do so. Of course, when my tutor gives me a deadline that I don't agree with, my response isn't "Nope, not going to do that!" or when the government announced the lockdown, of course I am going to abide by the rules as they are there to save lives. What I am saying is that I follow the rules and instructions of others, but I will always feel more creative and passionate about something if I have chosen to do it myself. Therefore, I raise the question of: does isolation only benefit artists if it has been their choice? In the Tate article, artist Anna Farley explains more about these feelings, the difference between isolation and solitude and whether this forced lockdown is a benefit to artists or not.
Farley states that isolation is not a choice but should be viewed as an opportunity, compared to solitude which is a choice and can benefit the artist by distancing them from distracting factors. Whether welcomed or uninvited, many artists will have to adapt their ways of working to continue making art. Personally, I find this need to adapt exciting as I am interested to see how far I can push my creativity. Through also having divorced parents since I was very young, I have grown up learning how to adapt to different households, circumstances and rules. Therefore, even though our situation is forced, through seeing the positives and working from existing skills, myself and other artists can find a way to benefit from the situation.
“I am taking this time to engage in developing a space to make art and challenging myself to understand what a healthy work relationship is for me as an artist; not allowing art to totally consume me; experience where the boundaries are to maintain my personal health and give space to creativity”
Adapting is a valuable skill to have during these unprecedented times. Even if you don’t feel as though you are so good at it now, it should be something that we can all learn and take away from this period of isolation.
Digital artist, Jason Wilsher-Mills quoted in the Tate article that “my chair has become my studio, and my MacBook my meeting room”. Jason is disabled and he explains that this has made him better at adapting and changing his practice. He feels that because he is a digital artist, it has been a positive in this situation as he is already used to creating and sharing his work electronically. For myself, I do edit and share my work in the digital world, but being an automotive photographer my subject has been taken away from me. However, looking at the positives I am excited about how I can test my creativity in these new and different conditions where I am restricted to my home.
Working with what you’ve got…
Looking at other artists’ work which has been created during a time of isolation can assure and motivate us that it is possible to be creative during these unprecedented times. A story included in the Tate article that I found particularly inspiring is that of Bruce Nauman's. One summer he was frustrated as he couldn’t think of any new ideas for his artwork. All that he had was his cat and an infestation of mice. This was a seemingly negative situation that he managed to change into a positive one. Nauman decided that he just had to work with what he had and ended up creating an art piece called ‘Mapping the Studio’. He had access to an infrared camera and used this to record several hours’ worth of video to capture how the mice behaved in his studio. The final piece was comical and provides a perfect example of how art can be found all around us.
Being able to see the positives and the silver lining of each situation opens up the individual to seeing new possibilities. With the resources we have access to, we can create things that we would never have thought of creating before. For example, it wouldn’t have occurred to me to take a photo of one of my toy cars before as I almost always had access to real, life-sized vehicles. My current college project is about passions and I was determined to find a way to show my passion for cars even though I didn’t have access to any real ones!
Art in isolation can look however you want it to…
At the end of the Tate article, an artist called Hamja Ahsan quotes that “Life has slowed down. Perception is heightened” and this is what I will be taking away from this article and I hope that you do too. We have been given an opportunity to see that there is a way to benefit or see the positive in each situation. The way to do this is simply by opening ourselves up to it. However, I understand that this can be challenging for the people who are experiencing financial difficulty, restricted resources and struggling with their mental health. I have certainly felt more frustrated lately due to being isolated, but still I take time to remember the good things that I have in my life and that I am grateful for.
To sum up, making art in isolation can look however you want it to. This applies to many other times throughout our lives, you can decide how to deal with the situation and what outcomes you want from it. I also want everyone to know that I am here if anyone needs support or someone to talk to, whether it’s about art or just to have a chat.
Thank you for reading! Stay safe and be creative.
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