My lockdown life

By Vanessa McGlone, Foundation Diploma in Art and Design student

As the peak of the pandemic recedes, I am reflecting on the last few months and how they have affected my artistic life. Being one of the fortunate ones not to be directly affected by the Covid illness, the past few months proved to me an opportunity for intense creativity and experimentation.

Before the UK was in lockdown, I was affected by the plight of a friend locked down in Barcelona, unable to access the natural landscape. In response, I created a number of landscape triptychs of the Hampshire countryside. I liked the idea of portable, post-able gifts that could remedy her yearning for the countryside. What started as an impulse gift became my first ever exhibition, a concept body of work of hand stitched squares of paper on which I painted a number of landscapes and figures. All artists know that what starts as the germ of an idea can grow into an obsession! The result was a Garden show entitled Impermanence which I ran as a pop up exhibition in my own lovely garden on 13th June 2020. This allowed for the work to be displayed and shared with others in a safe, socially distanced way. Just as the UK was emerging from the strictest form of lockdown, I was able to invite friends and fellow Artists (in pairs) to visit the temporary show. 

Whilst all exhibition material is by nature portable, I liked the idea that the paintings in Impermanence could be folded up and transported to any venue, where they would respond to the landscape or interior space. The lockdown experience has meant we have found ourselves suspended in time, changing our habits and responding to the new experiences. We have had to be both flexible and static. I feel the works have taken on some of this characteristic. I liked the idea of working with paper. It is a modest medium, sometimes frugal and of course fragile. The works on show were designed to have deliberate spaces in the canvas/paper which allows the viewer to glimpse the landscape beyond. To see the paintings hanging from the trees, responding to the breeze (wind, my enemy at times) gave them a life on the day of the show. It certainly fulfilled my vision. 

After so long without much social contact, my visitors were primarily delighted to have some social interaction and have somewhere safe to visit.  It was great to see so many people all in one day. Visitors arrived at timed intervals of 20 minutes (which proved not to be long enough), offered basic PPE (gel, masks), and I allowed 20 minute intervals in order to sanitise the areas after each visit so that everyone could feel confident the event was safe. Everyone was very positive about the show and I was delighted to sell some work too. Artists are often dogged by self-doubt but I felt compelled to get it out of my system by mounting a show. It was a really valuable experience and demonstrated to me the importance of promoting your work, realising your vision and making something happen even in the most restrictive of times.

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Foundation Diploma in Art and Design (FDAD)

Vanessa is a current FDAD student, and during lockdown has been attending our online FDAD Drawing Days. All students were given a six month extension and we are impressed with her initiative in evolving a simple idea of a gift to develop her work into an exhibition.

We look forward to welcoming all the students back in October.

We are pleased to confirm that the next intake is 2-4 October, and we are still accepting applications so please contact fdadadmin@westdean.ac.uk to enquire.

Find out more about the FDAD