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The corona crisis has made 2020 a year that we are going to remember for a long time. In March, life suddenly came to a standstill. Discomfort, fear, uncertainty, loneliness and loss are, in just a few words, what the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has brought and continues to bring. Daily routines fell away and old patterns were undone.
The new situation forces people to take a closer look at their lives and to pay more attention to the things that are actually really important. More attention is being paid to little things and we are discovering a new appreciation for our nearby surroundings. At the same time, this is a period in which other ways of doing things are being explored and new opportunities are being created.
Although an artist's work is often done in solitude, artists, too, experienced profound changes in their lives and work when the first lockdown was introduced in March.
The Breda artists selected for this exhibition by curator Ruth de Vos have made artworks about their experiences during this extraordinary period and through their own efforts express the experiences of many. Some documented events in society while others recorded their personal circumstances. Restricted by the lockdown measures, they sought new strategies to create their work: in their own neighbourhood, in nature, using alternative media, and switching to new working methods.
Social media is becoming increasingly important as a place to relate to other people.The diversity of the work shown in (Un)Locked makes it possible for everyone to find something to identify with. In this way, the exhibition also demonstrates how important art is, especially in these times, for sharing, connecting, and finding and offering comfort.
Five themes can be distinguished in the work of the participating artists, with some works fitting into multiple themes.
During the first lockdown, artists documented their experience of the events as they unfolded. For example Noortje Haegens took a photo of the view from a window in the stairwell of her flat every day.
The lockdown led to many restrictions on our daily movements. For many artists this meant looking for new ways to make their work. It sparked new initiatives such as starting work with a different medium than they were used to, or finding a different working method. Suzanne Jongmans, now no longer able to work with life models, used herself as a model in her photography, for example.
(Back to) nature
Because the freedom of movement was hemmed in during the lockdown, many explored their own neighbourhood (all over again). Especially nature areas close by became an opportunity for small excursions and chilling time. Ageeth Boermans found beautiful places in nature on her daily running route, and made them the subject of her new paintings.
Sharing and connection
The internet became the platform people used to keep in touch and support each other. Never before was it so clear how dependent we have become on technology. Because institutions were forced to close their doors, the internet became the place for museums to receive visitors through digital opening nights and virtual guided tours of exhibitions. Iris Bouwmeester shared 64 drawings on Facebook in 72 days, drawing an enthusiastic response from her followers.
For many people, art provides a much-needed opportunity to escape from the sometimes fearful and uncertain real world. But art can also bring consolation through the recognition of a shared experience. Artist Bodil Havermans recorded her own experience of being forced to stay at home in a video project.
The corona period has not been a productive time for all artists. For many artists it was (and still is) an uncertain period, in which income sources have evaporated. In this respect it is especially important to support artists in these times.
Contributors to (Un)Locked:
Noortje Haegens, Iris Bouwmeester, Josine Vissers, Lise Sore, Suzanne Jongmans, Bodil Havermans, Jacqueline Baselier, Pim Steinmann, Ageeth Boermans and Wouter van der Giessen
SBK Kunstuitleen & Galerie Breda developed a satellite exhibition around (Un)Locked with work by Judith Kuipers, Ageeth Boermans, Wiesje Peels and Trijntje Keijser.
You can find more information about this show at sbk.nl/breda