Strange Times and Painting
I remember when it started hitting home about the Covid-19 situation escalating.
17th March 2020 (St. Patrick's day) was my personal pivotal moment.
I've part-time jobbed at a local farm shop restaurant for the last year or so, and on that particular shift I actually asked to work in pot-wash.
No-one wants to work in pot-wash. It's hot and greasy and steamy, and it makes your hair frizzy as the waitresses and chefs pile never-ending dirty dishes and pans in your corner. The detergent makes my hands and arms sore, but I'm ok if I keep wearing gloves, and if I'm feeling anti-social, I actually don't mind being in there.
On that day I was more than happy to dive into pot-wash. The virus situation was brewing nationally, the government were still faffing around in indecision about people's safety, and I was feeling pretty skittish about mixing with customers. So I installed myself by the sink, gloved-up to the nines and covered in detergent. It was probably the safest place to be, if not the most glamorous.
By the end of the day though, management had made the decision to close the site down, and I'd been laid-off. Confusingly, underneath the gut-punch of losing a trickle of income that supports my painting, I also felt like a massive weight had been lifted and I'd been set free. Apart from the no-small-task of finding some money to pay the bills looming at some point down the line.
"Spring sprung, the sun shined for weeks, wildlife flourished without being crushed by humanity, and it seemed kind of right to paint optimistic landscapes, summer flowers and blue skies."
I suddenly had so many more hours in the week.
I got back into my running routine (under the Lockdown rules, of course) and immersed myself in painting, reasoning that I might as well just get on with my work, so whenever the galleries were able to open again, I'd have a ton of paintings to supply them with (or at least sell on my site).
Amongst enduring all the Lockdown idiocy of panic-buying toilet roll, and anxiety about getting ill (I have asthma, so frankly this does actually scare the shit out of me) I whirred with excitement, energy and fervour for my work.
Oddly enough though, I just painted all sorts of random stuff.
Spring sprung, the sun shined for weeks, wildlife flourished without being crushed by humanity, and it seemed kind of right to paint optimistic landscapes, summer flowers and blue skies. Quite a distance from the project I have my teeth sunk into at the moment, which investigates man's stamp upon the world.
Paint anything and everything, just because.
Because it was cathartic and meditative and because I'd given myself permission and we were stuck at home anyway, so it was better than sitting around wringing my hands and getting Pissed Off with the media editorialising the 'news', and becoming obsessed with every little facet of the situation—whether it's speculative, hard fact, or spin and government gaslighting.
I saw it as an opportunity.
Two months later...
I sit here now though, typing away in my makeshift studio (our conservatory), and on reflection I realise that catharsis and meditation were exactly what those paintings were about.
They were a coping mechanism, exercises to clear my head, to get involved with the process and experience the deep, strangely conflicting but simultaneous emotions of both utter peace and wild excitement.
I think the trendy word for it currently is 'flow'. Whatever.
Over the last few weeks of immersion, and in the middle of all the creative whirlwind, I have, eventually, paused to draw breath and stick my head over the parapet.
I've thought about what I want to do as a next step. I've discovered painters, new to me, whose exciting work has thrown questions up and helped me examine my own work, so I can evolve it, explore further and develop my ideas and techniques.
That's the bit that I'm now excited about, and it brings me back a full circle to the body of work I started before all this shit kicked off.
They're landscapes. Of a sort. Interior spaces and exterior—but they are about structure and light. About man's context within them. How we shape and form the spaces around us and how that makes us feel. What we leave behind, what we recycle and discard. The evolution of our environments from vanity, desire and necessity. And lots of other stuff that hasn't quite occurred to me yet, but I'll discover along the way.
How will I express all that? And will I even make a good job of it?
I'm just beginning to find out. That's the wildly exciting bit.
All images and text © 2020 Julia Brown