Like life, lockdown is peppered with ironies. Art classes or groups have closed or moved online. Art galleries have mainly been closed for most of the last year and exhibitions have been halted or postponed. Such a practical, physical activity as art or craft might now seem literally out of reach.
But as one door closes – or even as many doors close – others open. Art has boomed.
People have lost opportunities for connection, for travel and gathering, but many have gained the time and freedom to create, some for the first time in years. And as lockdown has followed lockdown, our need of creativity has become more recognized than ever before – not only by people who work in the arts or in health and wellbeing, but by the mainstream media as well.
In the Grayson’s Art Club series of programmes, to take one successful example, Grayson and Philippa Perry have created a space where people can experiment with art freely in their own homes, maybe through drawing or photography, montage or painting. People have responded and taken part in all different ways, and the latest series has just started.
And as many people have struggled with isolation, fear, anxiety and depression, art has become all the more important particularly as these later lockdowns have dragged on through the winter. Art has become a way to express thoughts and emotions. It has also become a way to forget.
It has power to help across so many experiences and situations. I recently heard about the charity Headway’s art studio in East London, Submit To Love. This unites some 40 artists who all live with a brain injury (https://submittolovestudios.org) The brain is so fundamental to our awareness and to our selfhood that brain injury could close too many doors. But all Headway’s work witnesses to hope and opportunity in living with a brain injury, and their Discovery Through Art initiative connects this specifically to creativity.
Obviously integral to Submit To Love is the strong community spirit and sense of shared creativity within the studios. Usually the artists gather regularly in person, but during the pandemic this has become a Home Studio on Zoom. It’s clearly keeping that community spirit alive as week by week, the artists spend time together virtually, sharing how they interpret a set subject in different ways.
Submit To Love covers a wide spectrum of styles and artwork, some focused on colour, others in monochrome, some exact, others more experimental. Some of the artists have exhibited widely. One recent event was a showcase at the Autograph BP Gallery, which displayed works by 4 of the artists. People can buy works from the artists online (either paintings or items like a print tote bag) or commission their own piece.
Creativity’s positive impact on the artists is clear, as they share, communicate and express themselves – all while creating beautiful, striking and distinct art.
Living under lockdown and living with a brain injury are very different, but there might be parallels. Either situation could force people to live differently than they would usually. Few of us would ever have imagined that we would live under lockdown, and few people imagine that they would have to live with brain injury. Art will go on revealing new ways to free us at different times.