Art in The Time Of Corona
The coronavirus (Covid) pandemic has impacted almost every aspect of our lives in some way, shape or form. Unsurprisingly, Covid art has taken off during lock-down as artists capture this unprecedented period in history. Undoubtedly, the effects of Covid will be felt for years if not decades to come. It is likely artists will continue to be inspired by the virus itself as well as its far-reaching consequences.
Tributes to healthcare workers and the NHS
The role of healthcare workers has inspired many artists. In the UK, there have been many artworks celebrating the NHS. For example, artist Nathan Wyburn created this collage made of pictures of over 200 NHS workers. He pieced together all the photos to make the image of one health worker wearing a mask. Nathan created this incredible piece of Covid art after the first clap for careers took place in March 2020. Nathan also created a portrait of Capt. Tom Moore, who raised an incredible sum of money for the NHS.
Love the NHS graffiti at Stokes Croft Murals in Bristol (Image: James Beck)
Of course, as a Bristol-based gallery, it would be terribly remiss of us not to mention Banksy. The Bristolian is arguably the worlds most famous graffiti artist. His artwork “Game Changer” is a homage to the NHS and nurses everywhere. The covid inspired artwork appeared suddenly last May at Southampton University Hospital as a thank you to its staff during the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.
‘Game Changer’ shows a little boy playing with superhero toys. He ignores the Batman and Spiderman dolls and chooses to play with a masked nurse in the Red Cross uniform. It was recently auctioned by Christie’s, selling for £14.4million. Banksy donated this to support health organisations and charities across the UK that enhance the care and treatment provided by the NHS.
Facemasks and Covid Art
Many artists, including Banksy, have featured the use of face masks in their artwork. For instance, several of Banksy’s pieces have recently appeared on the London Underground encouraging the use of face masks. The artist posted a video called “If You Don’t Mask, You Don’t Get” on his Instagram account showing him spraying his famous stencil rats in pandemic-inspired poses and wearing face masks.
Oxford-based portrait painter Tom Croft also used his skills as an artist to acknowledge the sacrifice being made by care workers during the crisis. His portrait shows Harriet Durkin, an A&E nurse from Manchester Royal Infirmary, in full PPE, with her chunky 3M face mask centre frame. Interestingly Tom is ambivalent about facemasks. He is quoted as saying “The mask protects, hopefully, but it also creates a barrier between patient and health worker. This impacts the human connection we’re used to, which is a huge part of care.”
Glass Artists and Covid Art
Bristol-based glass artist, Luke Jerram, has created some incredible glass art sculptures inspired by microbiology. In 2020 created a 23cm diameter glass version of Coronavirus, which makes it about 2million times larger than the actual thing. “This artwork is a tribute to the scientists and medical teams who are working to slow the spread of the virus,” said Luke.
Another incredible glass installation inspired by the Covid pandemic was created by Layne Rowe, of London Glassblowing fame. Layne created a stunning life-size angel wings sculpture called ‘Solace’ in tribute to those who have died from the virus. The piece has a double meaning for Layne. It was created to inspire hope and unity to those affected by the pandemic, it was also a tribute to his mum, who was also suffering from motor neurone disease.
Covid, Instagram and the Artists Support Pledge
The turbulence and uncertainty caused by the Covid pandemic hit a hammer blow to many jobs. In particular, many artists, in the first lockdown, saw their income go into free fall. Then an Instagram initiative, the #ArtistsSupportPledge, took off. This enabled artists to sell directly through Instagram. When their sales reached £1000 they spent 20% of the earnings buying another artist’s work. This revolutionary idea was built on trust and generosity and has proved a lifeline for many artists. It is just one example of how people have come together in the pandemic to help each other out. Artists have reported a swell of interest from the public in purchasing art in support of the industry in general.
Many artists used their time in lockdown to channel their energies and creativity into their work. For example, glass artist Ian Chadwick created a range of kiln-formed bowls in colourful geometric patterns as a creative response to the pandemic. These bowls, named “Covid 1, Covid2 were inspired by the use of patterns throughout history by cultures that use geometric patterns in decorative and often ritualistic applications. These bowls have sold incredibly well via Instagram. Ian said, “ I am hugely grateful for the support of my glass from my customers throughout the pandemic that has allowed me to keep making my artwork”.
Covid Art Summary
So you can see that coronavirus and its effects has featured heavily in all types of artwork, from street art, paintings, glass art etc. Many reflecting on how people have united to show support for key workers, often paying tribute to the NHS and other healthcare professionals. Others have focused on the structure of the virus. Others have reflected on the emotional responses such as fear and anxiety, the boredom of lockdown etc. Of course, the list goes on and on, and we couldn’t possibly cover the myriad of Covid art that has evolved over the past two years! But hopefully, this blog has shone a light, albeit a small one, on some of the Covid art that has been created. Also, how the artistic community has coped and come together in response to this terrible virus.