In times of uncertainty, crisis and isolation, the role of art becomes more central to our lives, whether we realise it or not. We can easily take for granted the grand buffet of media that is available to us.
Its easy to feel pressure to create during times of crisis and isolation as the ‘go to’ idea with creativity is that it is the ideal time to make. Although, this is certainly not always the case as the beauty of creating is everyone is different and so many people found their creative desires initially damaged and it took many months to find any sort of artistic rhythm and that goes from the high end professional to the casual hobbyist.
As I’m sure you’re aware all our staff are artists as Cass Art and we recently ran a Cass Art Staff Art Competition with any creations made over the last year in lockdown. Below you can find all the entries in our online exhibition celebrating our staff artists. Enjoy!
Aimee Clark - 'Illustrating still life has taken centre stage throughout all of my lockdowns. It's easily accessible, always inspiring, and often results in a reflection of my own wellbeing during the time of making. My partner and I began routinely buying flowers to brighten up the small, dark flat which we are confined to. After many bouquets had gotten sad, withered and been thrown away, we began saving various stems, tying the ends together, hanging them upside down in the dark meter cupboard and drying them out. This made us all the happier as it gave us a small task to complete during the long, empty days, as well an outcome to look forward to. My illustration is marking the beginning of this process, showing the enthusiasm for this new, beautiful hobby. The vase is now much fuller, with stems from around four or five bouquets! My work usually consists of a variation of materials and processes, usually traditionally drawn or painted, and then collaged digitally. The composition is usually dependent on, and considered with both the sense of feeling of the illustration and my own perception of the atmosphere of which the image holds. This illustration made room for a lot of space and a bright colour palette. A rightful display of the calm and bright sunny November day on which I began making the image!'
Bethany Dartnell - 'Psychogeography is a term used to describe the effect that places have on our emotions. This, as a practice, has been the main factor in the work that I have created for almost 10 years. Lockdown put an unfortunate end to my adventures of day long Brutalist tours of the UK but not for my love of community based Architecture. Park Hill Flats in Sheffield are a fantastic example of the 'Streets in the Sky' style and epitomises the social community aspect that a lot of Brutalist Architecture had in post war UK. Buildings that have brought people together again, much like what we have done as a community over the last year in this pandemic. From Zoom Calls to banana bread bake offs, Community has had a strong theme in 2020-21 and continues to be within the artwork I've created during my time at home.'
Asia Petit - 'This piece is one of a series of pieces I have created exploring process and materiality as a way of visualizing feelings of anxiety and chaos. The works are created using pieces of digital imagery which are manipulated and pulled into new mediums to create fragmentary landscapes. Creating these pieces has been really cathartic and you never really know how they are going to turn out, sometimes the process is very destructive and the original material is hardly recognisable.'
Lily Macrae - 'When confronted with our own mortality we long for the contact of others. Today, we must instead survey each other. A ‘social’ distance that denies us the satisfaction of our sensual desires – at the time we desire them most. We are denied the ritual of communion to commemorate the passage of life. In such times, the tableau of the last supper becomes ever more poignant. It is a subject immortalised by its universality. A ceremony we all share, and one which we must now do without. This body of work re-imagines universal stories and myths, highlighting their power, beauty, and often absurdity, while exploring how they play a role in a contemporary narrative and collective memory. Imagery of feasting and the bacchanal in art history brings notions of desire and consequence, of over indulgence and our need for instant gratification. The current loss of familiar company reinforces the desire to be with other people at these times of consequence, while highlighting the guilt that doing so would bring, and the loss that is ours because we mustn’t. Using the monumental scale and human architecture of images of shared ritual, worship, and chaotic power struggles, these works play with the traditional intentions of this imagery and what it means in our collective current state of pandemic anxiety and isolation.
Jack Kitchen - ‘Surface’ is a cyanotype made using skeletonised leaves. I found these leaves in formations after the significant frost last month, the forms are created as the softer tissues from the leaves decay leaving the fine skeletal structure. The cyanotype process is about creating an imprint or snapshot of the initial form, therefore this seemed like an imprint of an imprint. It can be quite rare to find skeletonised leaves naturally before they are completely destroyed by moisture, and so in the midst of such a depressing period it felt almost magical to find them intact; sometimes it takes a small thing to give you enough energy to struggle to the surface.'
Jessica Herbert - 'Precarious Times was created when life seemed as unsteady as the splaying laundry perched precariously on the sofa. Lockdown days were tallied by moving shadows across recesses in the ceiling; the nights punctuated by zoom socials and fantastical Covid dreams. Society felt post-apocalyptic with empty food shelves and daily government broadcasts; like it was resting on a precipice, balanced by every aspect of our lives pulling in opposing directions. Life felt frozen but always at risk of falling apart. One day in this timeless time of lockdown, when the joy of daily accomplishments extended to folded laundry, my favourite yellow knit was cascading from a sumptuous pile of textures and colours. I fell in love with the light and shapes, so I took a brush to canvas. It became a sort of game to see how long it could remain there safely, untouched, and I immediately saw the parallels with our new reality.'
Jules Penlington - 'Dolly Parton means so much to a lot of different people, and particularly means a lot to me. I’ve been a fan of her songs for years (I mean who hasn’t sung 9 to 5/Islands in the stream on a karaoke?!) but in the last few years I’ve really listened to her songs and the meanings behind them - her family, values and being unapologetically over the top. Not only has she been an advocate for female equality, but throughout her career she has been a strong supporter of LBGTQ+ rights - having famously entered into a Drag Dolly Parton look alike competition and loosing! In 2020, Dolly famously donated 1 million dollars towards research at the Vanderbilt University Medical Centre which has worked on creating a vaccine for COVID-19. Her support of the vaccination programme has brought awareness and clarity to a lot of different people. I’m a proud Dolly fan and I’ve spent many days during lockdown dancing in my kitchen to her music. I hope everyone who gets to see my painting puts a bit of Dolly on to brighten up their day.'
Kieran Turnbull -
'I got back into utilising pastels. Last December, I bought a selection of Unison chalk pastels and I felt it was only right to take advantage of my surrounding royal parks. This translated in me routinely visiting Richmond and Bushy Park, where I emphasised the use of colour. The outcomes of Paul Cezanne and Camille Pisarro helped inform me what palettes I should utilise whilst I also tried not to confine myself to the typical ‘A’ scales and frames by creating my own zines from pastel paper.'
Tyron - 'The artwork represents the most mature Beatles' faces in a pop coloured palette that recalls their most common psychedelic moment. The quite large size of this piece allowed me to go very much in details, although my goal was not making it look like a photographic reproduction. My personal vision and technique is catching what I like to call the 'ghost details'. This way I would always make something that is beyond the real perception of things, that's why I tend to scratch and 'soil' them after it seems completed. I like to think of this process as a sort of signature.'
Mario Gonzalez - 'The work is a print made with the traditional dry-point technique. The title is "Silencio"/Silence and it's an attempt to represent the loneliness and silence we all experienced on 2020 either in ourselves, the city or environment around us.'
Ronan McGeough - 'This piece was created in the height of the original lockdown and the basic premise behind it is the idea of human resilience in the persistent face of adversity. This was made during a time when hope seemed little, lost or incredibly distant. The figures of new cases were increasing every day, and death numbers were haunting and incomprehensible. But seeing all the front-line workers putting their health on the line, the adaptions made from individuals and industries to translate the physical to digital in every sense shows the versality and resilience of the human condition – to not wallow but find a solution. To portray this idea in this piece the abstract elements of paint washes and splashes represent the chaos, uncertainty, and terror that we were faced with in having one of our primary human requirements removed from us – physical connection. Having not faced a global pandemic everything was unknown including each individual’s response to such uncertain, frightening times. With such progress made in the last few months it easy to forget how surreal this time was. The building in this piece is to represent the human condition overcoming the horror in pursuit of wellbeing, to work together and an offering of hope for our collective consciousness. Something that we clung onto - those rays of light of a potential end in sight. It’s an emblem of hope of our collective spirit which manifests in so many of us and which in my opinion have never been as prevalent as the last 12 months.'
Timothy O Brien' - 'Over lockdown I have been using the time to practice my oil portraits. I usually paint by retaining my brush strokes, using rectangular strokes to build up the skin tone. In this piece however, I wanted the focus to be on her statement sunglasses and the lighting as if she's walking down a catwalk. Its inspired me to work with more accessories on a model to add another dimension to the painting.
Pop into any of our stores to meet and chat to any of our staff artists!
Don't forget to hashtag #cassart on social media to show us your creations.