From online classes to posters celebrating key workers displayed in windows, it feels like many people turned to creativity during lockdown and in the following weeks.
That was particularly true for our Young Visual Arts Group, who were preparing for a showcase of work at the end of their programme when the pandemic halted everything.
'It’s interesting to see how different artists have responded to the pandemic,’ says Rebecca Cromwell, 23. ‘I know that for a lot of people, it has given them more time to create. It’s evident that digital technology has become more relevant than ever and this has informed people’s work. For example, photography shoots now happening over FaceTime and Zoom, or through people’s windows.’
Her fellow group member Becca Lyons, 24, agrees: ‘A lot of people who wouldn’t have considered themselves artists or even ‘arty’ have been enjoying creative projects just because they’ve had free time. It’s becoming clear how much creativity is a normal need. I hope this will have an impact on how we structure work and play. Artist-led workshops have been a great example of this – I think the days of elusive art and elusive artists are almost done.’
The postponed showcase was planned to last a weekend in the Barbican, but now will be an online exhibition of work by the group of young artists aged 16-24.
I think the days of elusive art and elusive artists are almost done.
Lynes is exhibiting under her bedroom producer name, Becca Forever. She says the showcase was coming together under the loose idea of ‘It All Comes Down’. ‘That idea felt indicative of a number of themes in our individual pieces: mine is about dismantling capitalist “realism” and its prescriptions, and others also explore what needs to be ‘torn down’ to rebuild. Others, like Molly Morphew’s bird sculptures engaged with the title in more whimsical ways.
‘Now it seems to have a meaning within the Covid-19 context: the world has “come down” with this illness which hasn’t only cancelled everything but put a new spotlight on those institutional issues we thought about before.’
Collaboration has been central to the group’s dynamic, says Cromwell. ‘As a collective, we have always placed emphasis on collaboration and wanted this to come through in our showcase. We weren’t sure how Covid-19 would affect our working practice and team dynamics, but we managed to have a really positive experience throughout this time and have produced some great work.’
She says the group stayed in touch through regular meetings and ‘making sessions’ over Zoom. They have also been planning the showcase over Zoom, and feeding back on each other’s work.
‘Unexpectedly, perhaps, the pandemic has enabled us to develop a closer friendship. We’ve been forced to work in new ways and have proved just how well we can work collaboratively, despite the circumstances. We would like to continue working together as a collective after our showcase. I am excited for what we can achieve in the future.’
Lyons agrees. ‘If we’d finished the project in April, it would have had a much shorter lifespan. Launching online also means it can be a permanent presence rather than a weekend exhibition, and a platform for our future work individually and collectively. Keep tabs on us, yeah?’
Stay tuned for more details about the Young Visual Artists showcase, coming in November.