With lockdown easing for most of us across the UK, the status of galleries is understandably still uncertain. Being in lockdown at home, I for one have missed the art that is usually at my fingertips, finishing a seminar on a Thursday and popping down the road to the National Gallery, or heading to the ICA for free entry on Tuesdays before a lecture. And yet, whilst we don’t know when we will get that incomparable experience of wandering around an exhibition, or attending art events, the room throbbing with a collective and shared intrigue for creativity and expression, there are ways to keep exploring. Lockdown has given us time, I grudgingly admit having achieved little more than simply existing, and thus at last the theoretical space to actually read that article by that artist you like, or to eventually get round to watching or reading John Berger’s Ways of Seeing, the 1984 of the art world (yes, I’ve not read that Orwell novel either). If you are anything like me, a nicely compiled list to work your way through as a starting point for your own trajectory into whatever might pique your interest is welcomed with open arms, and thus, find below a few avenues to travel down, to fulfil your fix for art in lockdown.
Constellations virtual exhibition from Tate Liverpool
Having never been to Tate Liverpool myself, exploring the virtual opportunities to experience exhibitions these past couple of months has definitely broadened the scope of accessibility to art. With galleries providing virtual versions of past exhibitions, including the Royal Academy’s Picasso and Paper, check the link below to have a digital wander around, there’s plenty to get your teeth into. A favourite of mine has been Constellations at Tate Liverpool. Whilst some virtual shows are in video form, meaning you have to go at a prescribed pace, and look through a more angled lens, this one on Tate’s website provides more reading, and a little more choice. The interface is simple yet informative, and you can choose to read as much or as little as you like, learning about the interconnectedness of the art world, the links between Max Ernst and Sarah Lucas for example. Typically for Tate, Constellations online is an accessible exhibition brimming with verve and vibrancy, posing thoughtful questions about the state of the canon, and the interdisciplinary nature of modern and contemporary art.
Image: Courtesy of Tate's Website
The White Pube - a bible for contemporary art and criticism
If you’re into contemporary art and haven’t explored Gabrielle de la Puente and Zarina Muhammad’s website, Instagram, or Twitter, The White Pube, now truly is the time. A rallying cry against elitism, colonialism, and stagnancy, to name a few, within the art world, their reviews engage so viscerally with the art, so much so that you read them and cannot escape the feeling you’re standing right there next to them. Perfect for these times of lockdown, and for whenever you can’t visit the exhibition itself, we can experience it vicariously through Gabrielle and Zarina. Their trips to Oslo and Porto last year are definitely worth checking out, to feel like you have escaped your home and gone on an art-fuelled adventure. It’s not just reviews, they also showcase a range of artists, giving a spotlight to emerging talent and giving us ALL inspiration, along with book reviews on their Instagram, and longer essay pieces to get immersed in. It would be remiss of me not to mention their meme content too, hot damn, give them a follow if only for that.
Image: Courtesy of The Times' Website
Art, film, Caravaggio, and Derek Jarman
Iconic artist, and King’s alumni, Derek Jarman had a revolutionary and interdisciplinary approach to his artistic practice, and his 1986 film Caravaggio is certainly a highlight. Streaming now on Kanopy (which you can get a free subscription to through King’s), his masterpiece chronicles the life of the 17th century painter. It is a sublime intertwining of the artistry of Caravaggio himself, told through the lens of Jarman, with many reenactments of famous Caravaggio paintings you may have seen in galleries. It breathes a complicated life into the works of art we are used to experiencing as stationary pieces. A perfect artistic escape for days when you can’t leave the house.
Image: Courtesy of Kanopy
Video art from poet Claudia Rankine
One of the best pieces of video art I have encountered recently is the collaboration between poet Claudia Rankine and filmmaker John Lucas. The video essays Situations combine Rankine’s poetry with a melancholic and critically artistic eye from Lucas, and the seventh is my current favourite. Rankine’s words from her epic poem Citizen: An American Lyric, grapple with the commodification of black identity, and the interspersal of double exposed images of people on trains and twilight skies, with a lulling piano soundtrack, adds an aesthetic facet. Explore the full series on Vimeo, and perhaps even dip into Rankine’s Citizen, but definitely watch Situation 7 for a stark and intimate expression of her poetry.
Image: Courtesy of John Lucas on Vimeo
Life drawing for a life in (semi) isolation
If you are itching for inspiration to actually create your own art, but need a nudge to get you drawing, try the Royal Academy’s life drawing poses videos. Currently on their website there are two poses filmed for you to explore artistically. I always find that with life drawing, and with anything that you are trying to represent more literally, a mantra echoes around my head - draw what you SEE and not just what you think it should look like. Sure it sounds hatefully obvious, but when you see that shoulder line seemingly coming out of his ear, and instead you draw it far lower, as it would be in a front-facing cartoon, later on my words will be ringing in your ears. Trust me.
Image: Courtesy of Royal Academy's Website
If you’re still wanting more after trying those two poses, the full life drawing class, complete with tips and tuition beyond an unqualified English student telling you the revelatory secret that you should draw what you see, then check out this link to it - an hour and a half of pure, unadulterated, semi-nude art inspiration.