If anyone had told me at the beginning of the year that I would have all this time at home to spend with my family and focus on my artwork I would have thought it too good to be true. Time to hunker down and really focus on what I love doing would be like a gift wrapped present for me. Yet here we are and it is not quite like that.
We moved house during the lockdown, having already exchanged before this all kicked off. It took us eleven days straight to move a three bed house and two businesses with a car and a van but we got there in the end and we feel so lucky to be in our new home. We have woken up to beautiful blue skies for what seems like weeks, watched spring emerging in all its glory in our back garden and surrounding area, spent quality time as a family and taken daily walks in the bluebell woods near our house, taking care to avoid all human contact. It feels like we are in some kind of idealistic bubble.
However, as I set up my new working space, making art doesn’t seem to have the same relevance as it did a few weeks ago. The weight and uncertainty of the situation makes me feel feel guilty doing something I enjoy at this time, when others, purely because of their job are putting their lives at risk. This has been playing on my mind a great deal and makes what I do seem somehow frivolous. I know that many artists have felt the same. Maybe like me they cannot access the places or people that would have inspired work, or the materials they work with with are unavailable.
I have always through that art is born out of your situation, whatever that is. With this in mind I have started looking at the objects that I am surrounded with everyday, as we remain housebound for the majority of the time. I have been thinking a lot about food, and regularly going to the kettle to make cups of tea and coffee. I have been raiding the cupboard for treats and buying more biscuits than usual. I have started to photograph these everyday objects and see if I can somehow reflect this time through these objects. I started to pile cups up and tip things over in an attempt to make things seem out of balance.
Painters of the past have imbued still life with meaning. For example in these Vanitas by Pieter Claesz (1597-1661), he uses various objects to show the transience of life, the futility of pleasure, and the certainty of death, often contrasting symbols of wealth and symbols of ephemerality and death.
Well I am not sure I can represent the fragility of life through a cup of tea, but I like the idea of seeing how objects and the arrangement of them can suggest different states of mind, including the frustration and the uncertainty we are probably all feeling right now.
Here are my beginnings. As with all my work, I start on a journey and see where it leads. After I have cut out the objects in Photoshop, I try to arrange them to make an interesting composition. I am thinking at this point – what type of picture do I want to create? and I am not sure at the moment. I mask each object in order to cover it with a texture. This allows me more freedom to work with different colours and surfaces and in doing so create different moods.
I am currently finding that I begin a photomontage and then find myself having to go and take another picture as I think about what might work in the composition. It is a stop start way of working, which is different to usual, but then everything is a bit stop start at the moment and of course it allows time for another cup of tea. Biscuit anyone?