This is a piece I’ve been working on for a while. As with many of my pieces it starts as shapes, movement of color that then begin to form an idea depending on the mood they evoke in me. This painting didn’t have a definitive direction or completion until I began my time isolating. The pandemic just starting to break wide open with the shut down imminent, causing a collective feeling of uncertainty, the anxiety of loss of normalcy, of loneliness and financial uncertainty.
These overwhelming feelings that a storm is coming I describe as the anticipatory grief of what the future holds, about the chaos of an uncertain world where an unseen danger lurks, where the sense of self preservation of oneself and loved ones becomes a journey deep into finding the strength to remain mentally strong and go on; that collectively we are all experiencing these intense emotions...
I incorporated those emotions in the direction and completion of this piece.
This piece was made after weeks in isolation. While in my studio I received news that my dearest and oldest friend since childhood was fighting for her life in the hospital from the virus. Even as I write this the emotions are still raw. The recorded messages I would receive were not even recognizable as my friend's voice.
The helplessness, the anxiety of possible loss of a loved one took over my feelings and ideas of how I wanted to express them in this painting. The crow appeared in the progress of the work. I realized my internal voice was metaphorically at work in my apprehension of my friends fate. The crow, as believed in many cultures can cross between the spiritual and material world where they are messengers between the living and the dead. They are believed to be messengers of death but also messengers of creation and the magic of life. The crow shows us both the light and the dark, that helps us navigate the journey of change and transformation. It was this feeling of my friend lingering in this state between life and death, her slow but steady progress back to health and our ability to stay connected through technology - all the while I was working on this piece. We were able to share our sense of fear and our mutual need to find meaning in what we are all experiencing, which for us is gratitude... for life, for a world we have long taken for granted and the love we receive from each other and relief that our families were still intact.
This piece is a culmination of my worst apprehensions in this period of isolation and pandemic. The death of a beloved friend. The realization your friend died alone, the deep sadness from the inability to comfort those who are grieving with physical contact, the frustration of not being able to say goodbye, to not be able to mourn and start the healing through the process of the funeral. All I could give to his widow and child was this painting and my vision of a place of light and peace.
A child goes down to the ocean
Throws his arms around the sky
He sees how the stars are turning
He laughs then begins to cry
And the moon is blessed
She rises in the west
In his heart he feels uncertain
His dreams are pinned like the wings of a butterfly
And he hides behind the curtain
And the sins and the lies of the fathers
Shall rain down on the heads of their sons
And the dreams of the daughters and the mothers
Shall turn to dust in their hands
And all of this will surely come to pass
And nothing in this world will stay the same
Just the wind and the dust and the ashes of a dream
No winner at the end of the game
And the child screams, "I see nothing
There's darkness at the heart of the sun"
And he calls to the souls of the children
Who lived and died by the gun
"Graves and lies and crooked alibis
Pay heed to the words that were spoken
Cast out your hate, touch me with your love
Don't let yourselves be broken"
And I see your face in my dreams sometimes
Like a vision I had so long ago
In the chamber where the books and the keys were laid
Buried so far below
And all of this will surely come to pass
And nothing in this world will stay the same
Just the wind and the dust and the ashes of a dream
No winner at the end of the game
- Text by Peter Nolan Smith -
In the winter of 2019 I accompanied three young New Yorkers to Nairobi. We were going to climb Mount Kilimanjaro with the Kenyan team. Most of them lived in Kibera, a shanty town of almost a million people living on $1 a day. While I had been to slums around the world I was amazed at the size of Kibera. The main street of Soweto was crowded with families enjoying a restful Saturday. Vanessa brought us to a women's center. Her nine year-old sister entered the top floor. Hope recited poems about life in this chaos with pride.
"I am proud to be a slum girl."
The poverty around her remained poverty, but not despair because for Hope life is all about one person changing people to transform not only Kibera or Africa, but the world.
Photograph by Steve Kasoa
(Hope's sister Vanessa, Peter and Hope)
COVID-19 is Real
Spoken Word - by Hope
Lockdown has been a sweet balm for my introverted soul. It has felt like a return to a more natural state - one with less pressure to be out or surrounded by people. As social opportunities have lessened, so has my stress. Never before has this internal processor (the one that must decide what I will and won’t do) stopped running almost completely.
There is no need to cancel, confirm or worry about whether I’m self-isolating too much.
As I worked on this piece I questioned what it would take for me to allow this painting, like this state I’m in, to be what it naturally wanted to be, without the pressure of being more of this or more of that.
What would emerge on the canvas if I “just said it” without concern for what I was saying? If I just painted it, without concern for whether or not it made any sense?
I began keeping a daily and detailed sketchbook of stream-of-consciousness ink drawings with collage in a pink-ruled legal pad in late 2019. I drew these images intuitively with symbolic, anthropomorphic, and surreal characters to emphasize and express my reactions to the global news I was listening to while working in my studio. In particular, I was listening to US news about the impeachment hearings and trial of President Trump. So, the first 70 or so of these drawings were the results. I called this series my Book of Pink drawings.
I continued with these beginning in early March of 2020, working in the same pink sketchbooks but now as a reaction to being in isolation and in lock-down here in the NYC area due to the pandemic. Still a reaction to the news, but post novel coronavirus, the drawings became different and more intense while under quarantine. They are more elaborate than the earlier Book of Pink drawings and embellished with effusive and strangely symmetrical overblown landscapes and hot house colored inks. I call these new ones, added to the existing series, my Cabin Fever drawings. They contain overzealous flora and fauna, parallel botany and creatures who appear to have undergone some kind of metamorphosis. These figures morph back and forth between becoming animal or becoming human, switching gender identities at will, while often sprouting tiger heads, chameleon wings, and bunny ears on more than one occasion. They are creatures not found in our current nature, but perhaps from the future when we’ve mutated or adapted to our new world.
My Book of Pink Drawings
Walking to the supermarket or pharmacy wearing my N95 # 8511 respirator mask, my hoody underneath my purple coat and a pair of matching purple surgical gloves suites my style of dress.
Stockpiling things like toilet paper and paper towels and even food has always been a natural inclination of mine. Somehow this insular life is not dissimilar to my regular life. The one difference is that this isolation is not of my own choosing. COVID-19 is a repugnant virus which has caused a climate of fear and uncertainty. It has caused me to turn inward and subsequently look backward at my past work. I created these three manipulated photographs many years ago but they chillingly convey my present state of mind.
In the same year, we began a long-term series called “Sneaky Violence” and these three works are the very beginning of this project.
The aim of this concept was confrontation with sneaky, sophisticated violence (mental or physical or any other you can imagine). We assumed that our minds were set on insistent thoughts of violence and evil... for example you are sitting in the tram and you know somebody is behind you. Should he or she shoot you just for fun? Or what comes to your mind when you see a bag of plaster, bucket of water and chain saw?
Michael John Rowland
I began writing ‘Infinity in Bits’ (a book about the Tarot) in October 2019. It is now May 2020 and we are wading into the ninth week of shut down. I put the final word to the first draft last week.
The book is a very personal card to card exploration of a Tarot deck of my own design. Most of the 78 images have been chosen from paintings and drawings I have made over the past 12 years which I found relevant to the classic cards of the Tarot. The rest of the images were created specifically for the cards in question. I have kept true to the social and psychologically universal aspects of the popular Rider Waite Smith, Thoth and Marseille packs.
In the last two months it would have been impossible for me to have written of our universal commonality without elements of the current Covid-19 lock-down filtering into the book.
The Tarot is all about the possibilities of transformation through gaining a clear understanding of the self via untrodden paths.
When Robert contacted me to collaborate on this project I leapt at the chance.
As with many artist friends, apart from not being able to go out and gather inspiration from galleries, parks, cafes and general social events, most physical acts of creating have not been hindered, and so I am happy to show some of the results of my own reaction to this surreal turn of events. I am sharing my text on the Three of Swords and the corresponding painting - which I feel reflects our sense of isolation and our desire to escape.
Three of Swords
If you prick me do I not bleed?
If I accidentally put salt in my coffee instead of sugar which was in an unmarked jar that looked like sugar, do I not go "Bluuuurrrghhhh!"?
I am but flesh and blood
and wonky teeth
Pour me a bubble bath, I think I'm going to cry.
All things must pass, but why?
If I could get Time to stand still for just 11 seconds it would be that moment when you said "If I could get time to stand still for 11 seconds it would be right now."
When all your chickens have come home to roost and the kettle's on and the movie is downloading and the sky is bruising and the wet spring afternoon has decided everything for you.
Goodbye is too good a word, babe so I'll just....ignore it. It never happened. You never said it. There.
#kissmekillme #imissyou #brokendreams #iamsorry
"I coulda been a contender, I could've been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am."
"I could have been a footballer, but I had a paper round "
I don't know what the weather is like outside, I haven't looked. The afternoon is simmering. Salt and Vinegar crisps, fancy chocolates, prosecco, DVDs and a bucket full of tears and gin-soaked regrets.
The golden vagina home to roost, the baubles fallen from this hapless clown's costume, my non-plussed alley cat sick to the eyeballs of my shameless ennui.
"Embrace your arch nemesis as you would your heroes.
That sorrow you fear you are nurturing with your comfort blanket and Garfield onesie is a part of you.
Polish that silver toe-ring good, raise that plastic champagne glass and repeat after me, 'We'll always have the Liverpool Docks'. Here's looking at you, our kid."
Ibalgin, books, banjos and bedtime.
Bulbous nosed seraphim and a child's enchanted platform.
Caramelised wallowing in fried cheese recuperation, the loss of something loved can bring spiritual remuneration.
The Mook and Mr Happy taking snapshots of balloons floating in a north westerly direction to Chokmah, the land of wise, handsome young poets whose job it is to beat-poet the woe out of your beat-less heart.
And I beat-bet you'd give your wonky teeth for just one beat-beer with your beatified brother.
Calmly, as strawberry flavoured ectoplasm leaks from your mummifying jim-jams, you murmer to the hallucination in the fire place.
"Haha! Where did you come from? Where are you going? Who the fuck are you? Can I come?"
Metamorphosis, a series of mixed media fine art and hand printed screen-prints on paper, emphasises the science of life through transitional states of metamorphosis, whilst raising the question of life and its origin. The constant challenge between old standard and new science. Subjective perception and emotion however, are defined and contrasted by a collective atmosphere of a society. Modern society and life is ever changing through globalization in a rapid pace. Now the unthinkable has happened. The world how we knew it does not exist anymore. The future we thought we can predict is unknown. Change has to happen. It would be the biggest madness if nothing changes. Rethink – not less globalisation but ideal globalisation – exchange of knowledge and values. Less me - more us. More togetherness - in the end we all are facing the same final transition - that of our own mortality.
Aesthetic experience is closely related to ethical experience. The use of symbolic motives of flowers, butterflies, snakes etc. within traditional interpretation and mythologies is integral to my work.
The sculptural work of Krystof Hosek is primarily devoted to figurative motives.
Through his plastics - which are oscillating on the edge of decadence, caricature and pop-art - he critically reacts on present political and economical situations.
This work was inspired by the short story "The Gold Bug". It paraphrases the multi-layered work of E.A. Poe and his personalities. The installation of Krystof Hosek with his beetles - currently on the 4th floor of the National Gallery in Prague - can be perceived in this context as the main origin of COVID-19!
This series of photocopies derives from another series of black-and-white photographs of a shirt taken at the end of March 2020. Near the beginning of the lockdown period, I noticed that this shirt – now frayed at the edges and torn on one sleeve, not apparent though from a suitable social distance – when cast unceremoniously on the floor adopted a pose expressive of a spirit without me. I then went on to cast down the shirt more ceremoniously, photographing how it fell.
In the present work, Metamorphosis (20 April 2020), I selected three of these photographs, not unreminiscent of the pupa, larva and imago stages of insect metamorphosis. I juxtaposed the photographs with grocery shopping lists that I had kept from the previous fortnight. (Under quarantine, shopping just every four or five days has required such lists to become more comprehensive; the items on a list are arranged so as to be read in the order in which they are encountered, entrance to exit). Two cycles are thereby counterpointed: the unconscious rhythm of days a particular shirt is worn, and the period between shopping trips, dictated largely by when milk, beer or wine go short. I then photocopied the three pairs of shirts/shopping lists three times over, the copy of the copy of the copy erasing the ephemera. Only the photocopies remain.
During quarantine the names of the days seem to come less readily to mind; there is a need to impose a structure on the days so that events might happen in them. In the grid of photocopies, horizontal is metamorphosis into imago, while vertical is metamorphosis of an image into its ghost. Which direction the days go remains to be seen, as they disappear.
JAN HAJDELAK HUSTÁK
The music video from the band WWW Neurobeat is based on the theatre performance TUMOR - carcinogenic romance by T.I.T.S. performance group.
The inner world of cells in our body is as big as whole galaxies. The diseases and viruses spreading around our small planet are reflected within our fragile bodies. Are we the virus of planet Earth? Is the virus just Earth's way to fight back at our destructive behaviour? "Do not fill my chest with your trash."
WWW | Krevni obeh / WWW | Bloodstream
In the summer of 2019, I began a series of medically oriented works.
Turning sixty, and alerted to the worsening condition of osteoporosis in my own body (the loss of bone density) and witnessing the slowing of my own body’s ability to heal itself- my art took a turn inward on a minute, molecular level.
Physical manifestations of the wounded or ill body: a grandchild’s black eye - with the accompanying bruising in many hues of purple, my father’s nephrostomies- with the bags of urine in varying shades of gold, yellow and pink, the fungus on his toenails, and the bruising on his paper-thin skin-all were both repellant and at the same time, visually beautiful.
The onset of various diseases with friends and family is both a source of morbid curiosity and artistic fascination, and a deep dark hole I can easily slip into. The idea that something goes very wrong in our bodies, something that we cannot see or know about, is a worried obsession and a muse for further exploration. A web search for images of various diseases at the cellular level reveals a rich graphic world, full of color and repetitive patterns. Cancer cells are beautiful. Porous bone scans look like lace. Urine crystals are architectural structures. The image of the Coronavirus is pleasingly graphic.
When working with watercolors, salt and water, there is a special kind of physics at work: very wet paper will absorb, bleed and spread the pigment differently than dry paper. The very act of painting mimics cellular activity. This color breaks into and clouds another color. The color bleeds and stains in unpredictable ways. Things mutate.
These pieces are all part of an ongoing body of work exploring aging, disease and the limitations of our bodies. They reflect back to us the intricate forms that comprise our bodies, and are at the same time both horrible and seductive. With COVID-19, eerily, hauntingly, these works have become more relevant and the fear of things going wrong has intensified.
Yesterday, I cried
at their peak:
for the spring
I will not
I do not yearn
I am content
in the dimness
of the afternoon,
in a clear
29 March 2020
The sculptures and wall objects of this group of works carry human references to a minimal value of expression. In this way they become tragic beings that are longing for transformation: they want to speak, but communicate just with themselves, they long for existence, but can only stand with a prosthesis.
texts by: Susanne Burmester, gallery owner, 2020
A color remains a color.
A human remains a human.
When time gives people a change, aren't we still the same people with the same qualities?
The distance and mindfulness focuses, the corona continues its circle. The rhythm pulsates constantly.
How do we take care of each other? How do I react? What is my need for control?
The (transforming) dancer personifies adaptation, adjustment, conversion, transformation.
With a new knowledge, the (self-) perception changes and there is a change - metamorphosis.
Performance: Caroline Gerbeckx / Music: Marc Elsner / Video: Florian Willuhn / Directed by: Marc Elsner
Using audio clips of Bible verses along with Feedback Machine noise-music, the video "Pass Over Prague" is a plea sent out to the universe. Created during Passover, which after all was about a plague. The Feedback Machine is an electronic music instrument I invented which combines live audio feedback with sine waves; it is played by controlling the distance between the microphone and the amplifier while playing the sine-wave notes on a keyboard. I wrote the tune one morning during the lockdown.
The Isolation Collection