Artists in lockdown

During the COVID-19 lockdown we asked artists associated with the RWA about how the sudden restrictions had affected their life and work…

The following interviews were compiled by Laurel Smart for the Floating Circle - a magazine for and by the Friends of the RWA. 

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Fiona Robinson President of the RWA

As the lockdown commenced the uncertainty and fear that everyone experienced at this moment unnerved me to the extent that I found it impossible to work. I listened to a lot of music and read poetry and then eventually started to go through old sketchbooks of little studies. I had always intended to do a piece of work from them so very slowly started on a new large drawing. I continued drawing little landscapes and then towards the end of May moved into making very tiny drawings, almost not there, that feel like stains or bruises on the paper. They are about sounds, enclosed space, and the relationship of inside to outside. They express some of the unconscious thoughts that are swirling around in my head in my sleepless nights, in my dreams.

Fiona Robinson – Sketchbook drawing 10

Malcolm Ashman RWA

Before the lockdown I’d been making postcards for the RWA Secret Postcard auction. Having recently bought a large stack of paper I carried on making more small works, drawing the weather. As the days contracted into a series of simple routines, the intimate scale of these pieces somehow fitted the mood. I’ve always been able to make work in one form or another whatever’s happening in my life. With plans for exhibitions on hold it’s been a good time for reflection and reassessment. As for the future, it’s as uncertain as it’s always been. I’m taking each day as it comes, making work and focussing on the physical and mental well being of those I love. I think that’s enough for now.

Malcolm Ashman, Across the sea, Watercolour and pencil 15x20cm

Amanda Chambers RWA

I was scheduled to undertake a residency in Japan and I arrived at Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park on the 1st February, just as the coronavirus was spreading across Asia. I ended up staying in the country until early June. Over the four months I completed several works, primarily a large scale ceramic sculpture entitled ‘Akai Mori’ (Red Forest) inspired by the nuclear accidents at Chernobyl and Fukushima and the effect of radiation on pine trees. The experience of being in Japan during the State of Emergency and witnessing the experiences of my friends and family in Lockdown Britain was intensely challenging. I was also very conscious of living through a historic moment in real time and of the need to stay positive. In some ways my subject matter helped: how the past, if we learn from it, can help us shape a better future.

Amanda Chambers, Akai Mori (Red Forest) ceramic sculpture

Stewart Geddes PPRWA

Early on during the pandemic, I made the decision to relocate the studio to one of our bedrooms at home, seeing an opportunity to have a sustained period of working small. My initial optimism was quickly brought into question as the relation between body, gesture and canvas size as a mechanism for releasing ideas, and which is central to my improvised practice, felt awkward and hemmed-in on the small scale. There was also the backdrop of the disorientation that sprang from the COVID crisis itself – of the communal, psychological bewilderment it set in train; of simple human habits that had to be suspended. An early casualty of the ‘new normal’ was a planned 10th anniversary studio sale. In its place I sent an e-catalogue to people in my address book. To my delight, it generated a lot of sales. It was interesting, and frankly a relief, after weeks of quarantine to leave the city and drive around the country delivering paintings.

Stewart Geddes, Untitled 2. Acrylic on canvas 60x80cm