Walking In Lockdown
After the unwanted revelation that today marks a year since we entered ‘official’ lockdown, I’ve been pondering where this year has taken me, both physically and artistically and how it has changed me as an artist, and a person.
Last March, with the repeated message from the government being for everyone to stay at home, my practice became somewhat more constricted – localised – with the wide-open landscapes I had been used to exploring becoming my local park, the towering trees transforming into more pruned domestic shrubs in the gardens that lined my once daily government approved walk. My paintings are all about my experience of the natural landscape, and this had previously involved me immersing myself within nature, removing myself as much as possible from the urban surroundings of everyday life, but with the overarching message being to pretty much stay within my house, that wasn’t particularly possible anymore.
With lockdown came working from home, and with working from home came a lot more time within the day which in the past would have been spent on the commute too and from work. This sudden influx of time actually made me more productive, allowing me more time with my paints to create work. This work seemed to shift from being influenced by the remembered experience of walking within a specific landscape, such as the moor or coastline, to just the memory of being within these places of nature, places that were totally off limits to me. As the paintings progressed, I found that I was starting to include snippets of memories from walking around locally. Although my walks around suburbia, with human presence being very much obvious, there was still elements of the nature I so craved. Getting up early in a morning meant I was witness to the chorus of birds singing in the new day. The changing seasons and weather giving beautiful transformations to the gardens that I’d become so familiar with, watching flowers slowly bloom across the weeks and months until there was a flourish of colour carpeting the ground.
As lockdown began to ease it was a case of what now? There was always that underlying level of anxiety, the sun is out, everyone is going to be going to natural beauty spots as it’s the only thing people can really do! I decided that I was a bit fed up of staying local so went on a few trips to places of nature. I visited Flamborough Head, Skegness, Bridlington, all places on the coast just as a means of escapism, to be surrounded by nature and not have to think about the horrible virus that’s turned everyone’s lives upside down. The coast hadn’t changed, the air still tasted as salty, the wind was still as strong and assaulting as it had been pre-pandemic and the roar of the waves was still as loud. Nature hadn’t changed, but I felt like I appreciated it more after being essentially locked up for weeks on end with the same natural surroundings to walk through. I feel this sense of appreciation has come back into my work, as the memories seem more vivid as I hold on to them, not knowing the next time I’ll really be able to go freely wandering in nature, far from my home.
November brought back further restrictions, meaning a lockdown birthday. The restrictions weren’t as strong as March (or I think they weren’t I can’t remember there’s been that many lockdowns now!). I spent the day lounging around the house, not really knowing what to do but appreciating that I, and my family around me, were healthy. My partner spontaneously asked if I wanted to go out for a drive just as something different to do, and we ended up at Wessenden Head up on Marsden Moor. It was a very cold and rainy November day, and the weather up on the moor was extreme. The rain was coming in sideways and each droplet stung my face. The wind was so strong that every muscle in my body was tensed against it to try to propel myself forward. I had to hold onto my hat with both hands to stop it from blowing away and it was the most fun I’d had since the beginning of the year. It made me feel alive, breathing in the fresh air, being baptised in volatile nature. We could only stand it for about 5 minutes before we retreated to the car, but it will definitely be a birthday that I remember, and not just because it was celebrated in such a strange time.
As we’ve progressed into 2021, and things don’t seem too much different, I think that the things I’ve learned about myself, and my relationship to the landscape will be something that carries forward in my work. Although limited in scale and materials, I think I’ve learnt some valuable lessons and as the vaccines continue to be rolled out, and with the hope of the world slowly starting to go back to some form of normal, I think my work will continue to develop. I definitely will take advantage of any opportunities given to me to explore the natural landscape as the country opens, and I have made a pact with myself that I will return to ceramics and explore further with the idea of ceramics being an extended form of painting within my practice.
If you’re reading this, I hope you and your family are well.