At the beginning of the Pandemic Lockdown period in March 2020, I began an online page – “Covid Island Diary”. I began to document and collate images, memes and political comment made by artists during the situation as it unfolded. I was extremely interested in the artist response to this immense world event. It became very clear, early on to everyone that as a society we rely heavily on artists every day. Designers, film makers, writers and musicians all helped to make an enforced lockdown at home more bearable for us all.
I am a self-employed Visual Artist, a painter (my studio is in Glasgow’s Briggait). I am a Curator and organise exhibitions, group shows and have also commissioned work for NHSGGC. I also work in Education as an Arts Specialist. I work with children who for one reason or another have difficulty in the school environment and need an alternative to in-class learning. My work is a blend of Art Therapy and Professional Art practice. I enjoy this privileged role immensely and it`s a big part of my working week. Due to the Pandemic and Lockdown I lost this work as schools were closed and my studio complex was also closed for some time. Galleries I exhibit with also closed. This eventually led me to seek out an Artist Development Grant provided by Renfrewshire, my local council. This award has been so important for me as a self-employed artist and business owner; it has allowed me to keep my studio running and produce a series of artworks inspired by my Covid Island Diary.
The online page itself followed the mood of the country and initially was filled with humorous interpretations of government recommendations: hand washing advice, mask wearing, sanitising etc and of course the message to STAY HOME!
These works were all done using photo-shopped memes; often stills from well-known films and everyday situations. These encouraged a mood of positivity and `we can do this’ attitude. As time went on the mood changed and became more serious and politically agitated which produced more serious comment.
I preferred the more uplifting and humorous ideas and have produced a number of original artworks on this theme. This next image is called: “There’s no place like home, stay there!”
This is of course based on the film “ The Wizard of Oz”. We see the iconic Paisley skyline in the background as Dorothy, Tin man, Straw man and Lion happily dance along the road out of town under cover of darkness, with no social distancing. No masks and of course breaking the curfew and lockdown rules. The long shadows they cast are symbolic of the fear they are causing. Dorothy looks slightly unwell, she is unaware that she may be carrying the virus. The masked police officers stop them in their tracks as the virus mingles in the air blending into the flowers surrounding them.
I wanted to make some of my images `Paisley-centric` and have produced some collage pieces too.
This one is called `Red T-Shirt` and features the cast of Star Trek landing on the strange Planet Paisley, deserted mysteriously…
Kirk, Bones and Spock are all wearing their masks but the crewman in typical Star Trek fashion is expendable having no protection. I chose the town centre in particular as it is home to the Cenotaph, the most important sculpture in Paisley; dedicated to those who lost their lives in the two World Wars. The fight against Covid 19 was likened in some respects to this part of world history. The many lives lost and the heroes (our key workers) and medics who have risked their lives daily.
Superbia is significant to me personally as I was commissioned to create this Paisley Legacy Lion sculpture a few years ago and he represents pride in my hometown. This sculpture is often enjoyed by children who like to climb on his back for a photo, sadly, he too was off limits with traffic cones around him to prevent human touch and possible cross contact of infection. Something most people wouldn`t consider. We have had to learn to be seriously cautious.
Frequent hand washing and sanitising have become the new norm…
In this artwork I have used the iconic Johannes Vermeer `Girl with a Pearl Earring’ except here she is `The Girl with the Anti-Bac.’ She is framed by an elegant golden design however, the flies surrounding here are a symbol of contagion. Hence the need to wash hands frequently. I loved the idea of using iconic paintings to get the important messages across whilst also injecting some humour.
This next image is based on Caspar David Friedrich`s iconic work: Wanderer above the Sea of Fog.
My version is called : “ Nae wanderin`”.
I wanted to create some artwork that children could relate to as this has been a very challenging time for the young unable to attend school. The following pair of images feature `Mittens` the cat.
The first image illustrates how to wear your mask properly, which is very, very important. In the second Mittens has broken the lockdown rules and has been: “Caught in next door’s garden”. It was important that during lockdown we didn`t mix with other households.
I endeavoured to produce 6 artworks for this project however I have created 12 in all. There have also been some exciting developments for me related to this work. My piece “No place like home, stay there!” was featured on Channel 4’s Grayson’s Art Club : “Dreams Edition” and has been purchased by Johnny Vegas!
I’m currently discussing the details of a proposed exhibition to take place at Royal Alexander Hospital, Paisley; a way of expressing my appreciation and admiration for the work that they have done over the past 18 months. I then propose to lead a curated group exhibition alongside other artists who have produced excellent and uplifting Lockdown Artwork. I have also been working to develop a range of graphic ‘campaign’ posters – akin to World War II informational artworks – based of my original paintings. Here are two examples :
All images are supplied by Maureen Rocksmoore and all images are Copyright © Maureen Rocksmoore 2021