Current Issue #488

In strange times, Prospect artists stop to paint the roses

Sarah Northcott, Handrail and canopy

The pandemic has turned many ordinary routines on their heads. In new exhibition Strange Days, local artists contemplate their experiences of new social rules, isolation and insights.

Created by artists from Prospect Arts Action Network (PAAN), Strange Days features work created during the current pandemic. The works reflect the artists’ experiences of unexpected realities, new social rules and routines, now-familiar graphics and turns of phrase, isolation and connectedness, and new insights into their neighbourhoods.

Art has kept this group connected through fortnightly Zoom meetings to discuss what they have been working on in response to the pandemic.

Discussions revolve around rules and restrictions and how routines have changed or stayed the same, as well as isolation and neighbourly connectedness during these strange days. Working across various media these artists have all produced something different informed by these discussions.

As cities faced lockdowns and isolation and life slowed down, landscapes altered as busy streets became ghost towns allowing fresh perspectives on our neighbourhoods, seeing things that were already there but may have gone unnoticed. This is what fascinated photographer Peter Lindon who wandered and watched a silent Prospect Road, eventually discovering curious items in shop windows and slices of urban detail.

“The small became big as the shops became their frames. The buildings we are used to seeing came to barely contain things we usually don’t notice. And that’s what COVID has done for me artistically,” states Lindon.

Similarly Sarah Northcott ’s postcard-sized paintings of footpaths, bike paths, fences, road signs, plants, and architectural details are inspired by walks during lockdown in her local neighbourhood with her young family. She says: “I feel like I saw the local area in a new way during this time that we were more or less confined to it. I hope the works have a sense of something familiar yet unfamiliar about them.”

Gus Clutterbuck, Potholes

Other approaches include Katie Harten’s installation work which she created within self-imposed restrictions on colours, forms and arrangements, collecting only materials that have grown or changed over time such as wood and rusted metal. Youngsoon Jin has also created an installation work which is a visual response to the info graphics, graphs, lines and curves we have become so familiar with from the daily updates during the pandemic.

Cathy Brooks is fascinated by the more absurd reactions to COVID-19, creating mixed-media pieces including hand-coloured photographic works referencing the idea that “the ground has moved from under your feet”. Looking at the idea of isolation within isolation, Gus Clutterbuck’s works include depictions of sticks he collected with his son, fascinated by the places they found them and how they could arrange them. A reflection of some of the more simple pastimes we have reverted to during these unusual days.

Strange Days is an important exhibition which has grown out of a group of artists’ need to stay connected.

The visual arts are more important than ever for offering an escape and relief from the monotonous daily reporting on the pandemic. They also play a vital role in marking an unusual point in time, reflecting the current moods and trends of these strange days.

Strange Days
Newmarch Gallery
4 September – 4 October

Jane Llewellyn

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