The study hangout I attended on 04/04/2020 was directly aimed at addressing ways to keep up momentum during the COVID-19 pandemic. As well as coming away with inspiration for coping during these times, I found the discussion really useful with regards to how I think about art in general. This was a very welcome bonus and I’m pleased I attended the session.
We started the session with a brief introduction by Helen, a fellow student and someone I had met on the OCA London regional study group quite a few times. I found the introduction to be informative and incisive by going over the effects of the pandemic on our studies and what we could expect to take away form the study hangout. I also learnt that the study hangout was very packed with maybe 20 other students in the hangout room!
The study hangout was tutor-led by Bryan, a tutor with the OCA. He started with a statement: ‘art is not about freedom but restriction’. He explained that by adapting to the circumstances and not waiting for ‘perfection’ it is possible to respond to the situation that we find ourselves in. I thought the statement was very timely and a good way of starting the discussions. I agree that perfection is a funny term in art. Is it possible to achieve? Also by trying to achieve perfection it is easily possible to procrastinate without creating.
Hugh Hadfield, an illustration student kindly shared his work with us that he had started in response to lockdown under COVID-19. I thought the illustrations were very sharp and witty. I also liked the consistency of the presentation with two illustrations per page juxtaposing each other and the text describing his thoughts on the virus. It was an example of someone being creative with regards to the virus and more specifically lockdown. The illustrations had an immediacy to them which we attributed to the fact he was making them daily during the lockdown.This inspired me to make visual notations of my state of mind during lockdown. Admittedly I feel it is harder to make photographs than illustrations during the lockdown as in my experience photographs taken outdoors suit me better.
Then Rob Townsend described three ways he feels dealing with the lockdown can be negotiated from a study perspective. These included firstly looking back at books art related that you’ve enjoyed or found useful before. Secondly, he described looking at other art disciplines and finding out how these disciplines work which might inspire you for your medium or even to take up a new medium. Thirdly, he showed us a comic book titled Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud (1993). In particular there was a spread of the comic he shared which effectively depicted how art operates. I found this spread fascinating in showing relatively simply the process of mind to art to viewer’s mind as a form of communication. Rob also talked of a continuum between obscure and direct messages for the viewer in what you are trying to communicate. I agree that it is possible to be quite direct and explicit as an artist but that this can then range to the other extreme which is unclear and hard to grasp. In my opinion my previous work has quite often been direct in message but I am now appreciating making my work lean towards more ambiguous and harder to read. I still feel my art should be discernible in terms of message but the viewer should be able to make their own mind up and context is important in adding meaning too.
Next Richard Keys, another fellow student I had met on the OCA London regional study group quite a few times talked about discovery of self through art. Richard showed us his art where he had embroidered onto the printed photograph. Each piece took about 50 hours to complete and through making these Richard got a better idea of self – controlling his anorexia through embroidery. Bryan brought a good point up about Richard’s making process of 50 hours, did Richard realise he’d be looking at his own face for 50 or so hours? Richard responded that it had been planned beforehand but that he didn’t realise it would take quite so long! This made me think of how photography can be considered a self discovery itself. In terms of my one body of work I didn’t realise I would be creating repeat photography for so long looking at strangers from behind the lens. I find the process quite therapeutic and absorbing. Richard is also quite open about mental health which I find refreshing and hard to express. Richard described adding another medium on top of photography really felt like finding something new in bringing two disciplines together. Bryan made the point about the back of his embroidered photographs showing the subservient chaos that goes into the making. I started to think about perhaps showing all the Photoshop layers and layer masks of my composites as a side post? This would reveal my making process of the composites which I have previously described as detailed without displaying how I make them.
Lastly, we talked a bit more about coping strategies for studying during the pandemic. Sarah-Jane said putting down blinkers and having tunnel vision while still filtering through information about COVID-19 is useful. Also she remarked that it isn’t necessary to succumb to the pressures of making creative work in response to the virus if you don’t feel like it. Helen backed this up when she said lowering expectations for creativity in regards to being in quarantine is something to be mindful of. There was access to a Padlet which we were invited to join to add things that were of interest during the pandemic and any creative responses we might have.
Overall I think attending the study hangout was immensely useful and timely for me. It addressed some thoughts I had been having about creativity during the lockdown and provided much more productive insights into others’ work/attitudes than I had imagined.
McCloud, S. (1993) Understanding Comics. Massachusetts: Tundra.