Art In Lockdown
by Larraine Duquemin
I was asked to write about my paintings and inspiration to put on the choir website. Since these have been such unusual times, I thought it might be appropriate to take you on a personal emotional journey.
I have been trying to make sense of Lockdown - along with many other people, and to share with you a few paintings which have come about as a result . They are not wonderful works of art but when I look back, they seem to relate to the phases I have been experiencing.
Phase 1 NUMBNESS
When Lockdown was first announced I was filled with shock and confusion. Barred from the beaches; freedoms taken away; worries about my children in London - one of whom works in a hospital. I couldn’t concentrate on reading a book or watching a film let alone painting. People suggested that I must be enjoying time to paint with no distractions. I felt guilty that I was not using this time creatively. I forced myself to paint a familiar view of the harbour.
I called it ’Aglow’ but felt it was a superficial piece without life. However, it had released me from my torpor. I had picked up my paints and was ready to express and experiment.
Phase 2 ANALYSIS
I was loosening up but feeling frustrated, playing with paint. I spread fluorescent green on a large canvas and suddenly the men, (mostly men) speaking from their lecterns at their daily feedback meetings emerged. It was at the stage of the pandemic when decisions were being reversed, actions not taken, leaders giving ambivalent messages that I found confusing.
The title ‘The Congregation of Wise Men’ came to me from nowhere. The painting, with its crowd of bodies (perhaps influenced by images of Parliament at the time) just expressed to me chaotic thinking, following the herd, politicians vying for attention. So now I was expressing my frustrations and alarm.
The Covid cake is an example. Called ‘Complicated Comfort’, it shows a lovely sweet cake which can bring solace and comfort, but all the evidence was showing that the overweight were among those most at risk. So I put a Covid virus cell where the cherry is. Think I’ll resist this time.
We wanted to reach out, to receive comfort from others, to touch. But we couldn’t go near. We were all living alone with this in some way.
Hence ‘Distanced’. The baby blue and pink denote the innocence of childhood or the vulnerable, reaching out but unable to touch. The thought of children being from their friends was much in my mind.
Time to move on.
Phase 3 BREAKOUT
I’d given myself some distance. I’d thought long and hard about recent events. I was ready to rebel, go wild in my mind at least. I was not going to be miserable. I was going to go back to colour and action and liveliness (blame Kate W for this, as she had shown me her lovely holiday photos of toucans which filled my mind with colour!). So, madly, joyously, I put colour to canvas, broke up the image of boats to release energy in the form of a kaleidoscope of colour, like jewels. I called it ‘In Spite of it All’.
That felt better…. but like after every party, I needed to come back to reality, to gain some equilibrium and serenity.
Phase 4 BALANCE
Gradually, I drew on the strength and comfort given by the beauty of the very many daily walks along the lanes and hedgerows that I followed during lockdown.
I looked at the details of things, literally at first under the microscope. I studied insect wings, drawing the markings which looked like vertebrae, tributaries, fractals.
I sketched wild flower fields, country lanes, even hedgehogs!
I thought of the cool and dampness of a mossy wood and started to experiment with Chinese paper and charcoal to feel my way into that experience.
Called 'The Cool of the Forest', I was recapturing some creativity from inspiration on my doorstep.