Lockdown Art Tally

I planned to spend 1 month in the UK, arriving in early March 2020, to host an art project, The Body Room, in London. As the COVID-19 situation has unfolded, I stayed and it has been almost 5 months now. As I get ready to return to Valencia in a few days time, I thought I’d make a tally of all the new and unexpected ways I’ve engaged in art during the lockdown. In a rough chronological order, it goes like this .. read along and see how many you recognise too!

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Reading Notes – ‘The Story of Art’ by EH Gombrich

In early lockdown I enjoyed reading this slab of a book on art history. It starts with cave paintings which felt strangely pertinent as we all hunkered down for lockdown. Despite its 700 pages, its actually a pretty pacy whirl through art history. His language is clear and non-pretentious and the layout is impeccable. Full marks for usability – if he talks a bit a painting, he puts a full colour decent sized reproduction in! It’s a pretty ‘conventional’ and mainstream version of art history, and of course there’s barely a woman in it, and the artist is always a ‘he’. But what he does write about is insightful and useful.

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On Face as Mask and Self-Portraits

Since mid-March 2020, I’ve been seeing a lot more of my own face than normal. Yes, you’ve guessed it, like many other people, I’ve found myself on a merry go-round of video calls as a result of Covid-19. I’ve used video chat to keep in touch with friends and family, to keep working on art projects across borders and most recently to complete an 8-week online art course. And it’s exhausting. I’m no fan of screen-time at the best of times – yes, I’m one of those strange refuseniks who still doesn’t use Netflix! But beyond the eye-strain and tense undertone of blue screen light, I realised there was something particularly emotionally exhausting about the new prevalence of videochat. And mostly that was my face …

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Making Art Public: 50 Years of Kaldor Public Art Projects

Thinking about the term ‘public art’, the immediate connotations that spring to my mind are: (i) big things (ii) outdoors and (iii) as I’m a Brit, The Angel of the North by Antony Gormley. Thinking a bit further, I wonder about all the statues commemorating various men (mainly) and women (occasionally) standing in our towns and cities. Pondering a bit more, I recall some wonderful works I’ve seen dotted around Folkestone, Kent, the lasting legacy of their inspiring triennials.

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The Face Room

Staring out from the wall of the Otago Settlers Museum, in the far south of New Zealand are hundreds of faces. From floor to ceiling, eyes resolute and unflinching, all around you. Stern and uncompromising, faces from over a 150 years ago and far away.

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Reading Notes – ‘Living with the Gods’

I recently read, ‘Living with the Gods’ by Neil MacGregor, originally a radio series and a fascinating exploration of religion and rituals, across cultures and throughout history. MacGregor is a former director of The British Museum and he weaves this story through the medium of artefacts. Examining places and objects that illuminate how humans have practiced faith and beliefs through time.

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Six NZ Artists to Know

Earlier this year I spent some time in New Zealand and visited Wellington, Dunedin, Invercargill and Queenstown. I had been to New Zealand once before, but had never particularly read up on the NZ art scene or history. While I was there, I visited a number of galleries and it was interesting to see which artists’ names kept cropping up. Whose work is repeatedly collected and shown in public galleries? And which artists’ works stood out to me, as a non-native, with little knowledge of the NZ art world.

Here’s my list of NZ artists I came to know and a little more about them.

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On ‘Stunning’

Why do I have such strong feelings feelings about this word? Well, I suppose my strong feelings are about its relentless use in everyday parlance. And a usage, which seems ignorant of the word’s origins and its inherent power dynamic. I’m pretty sure that’s why it grates for me, let me expand more on that …

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