Interviews From Isolation Four Artists – Oliver Malin




This is a new series of interviews coordinated by Oliver Malin that Artlyst is going to run over the next few weeks illustrating how other artists are coping with life and isolation under COVID-19. 

There is little doubt at how hard it is to write an opinion piece while being carried by the vortex of our new normal

I can’t stop returning to Mike Tyson’s aphorism that everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face. Another Tyson, this one in the Fury form, bigger than any other, & equally remarkable in intent, wonderfully dismantled Deontay Wilder on the 28th February. In hindsight, it was the last weekend before we really became irreversibly engulfed in the miasm we are cruelly being dragged through. However, it’s not all doom and gloom; it can’t be, that’s not the carefree human spirit. Of course, it’s unexpected that now we need to flex our Darwinian credentials in order to survive, you need to avoid any unnecessary contact with others other than those you live with & if you ignore this you could potentially kill someone down the line with a simple handshake without even knowing it. To make it additionally challenging, you now need to find food and necessities like toilet paper in the face of unprecedented supply reductions and demand to have an equally surging increase, which creates a perfectly distilled cocktail of panic.

The consequence of physical actions aside, it also feels like we are all oddly gathered at a strange house party, yes the app too. None of us knew that we were invited & now can’t seem to leave, even if we try. I, myself feel slightly perplexed about the whole thing & without getting too loaded on a pint of existentialist kool-aid have been recalling my brief time in the TA, like Gareth from “The Office” & filling up Jerry Cans with Diesel (Just in Case).

However, In a time of great uncertainty & increasing oppression (through our own safety measures), artists are a good bunch to force questions upon to offer us a few lighter moments & ways to make your stay at home, the new going out.

This pop up interview series will see the same questions reheated and dished out to a cross-section of Artist’s & creative enablers over the next coming days. We commence with the Queen of Felt, Lucy Sparrow, who constructs the most visceral reenactments of our favourite consumables from popular edible culture all out of felt, which you wouldn’t mind living in too. From reenvisaging life through fine means of dexterity comes another observer of the minutiae of everyday life’s idiosyncrasy & purveyor of a fine Scottish Lilt, Dougie Wallace… Arriving afterwards is a young upstart called Sam Harris, who has a poster of Duschamps on his wall and a photo of him close to his heart. He’s managed to cause virility in the viral sense through initiating the website howmuchtoiletpaper.com, If you don’t believe me, have a google of “toilet paper calculator” or ask Jimmy Fallon. Then to see us out in style is the most glamourous user of carbon to produce airily accurate drawings of people, places and things.

Lucy Sparrow

Lucy Sparrow 

How have the unforeseen circumstances affected your practice & how have you chosen to respond creatively?

Greetings from the Felt Cave, where I am currently hula-hooping and playing power ballads. Big thanks to Meatloaf, Bonnie Tyler, Taylor Swift, Miley and Gaga for the music.

How is your mental health at the moment & what are you doing to stay positive?

I live in a really remote area of the English countryside and so have been going on long walks in the light summer evenings. I’ve also rather sensibly planted vegetables and herbs but also plenty of flowers for morale.

With all this potential free time, what are you going to do/ learn anything new?

I haven’t had too much free time yet as work and the general uncertainty of the moment has been challenging. I’ve been talking openly with my team about our plans for the future and trying to stay positive but realistic as literally none of us are sure what the next few months will bring.

To be honest, after spending the best part of the last decade in a felt induced sewing frenzy; my usual state of mind is mild panic due to the constant threat of looming deadlines, and so the COVID-19 situation has actually distracted me from that, substituting it with a new set of concerns about everybody’s health and well-being.

What advice would you give to your fellow creative practitioners?

I believe that into times of stress and turmoil, some of the best creative ideas are born. So I’m keeping on planning and looking forward to the time when we all emerge from this phase and can create the biggest, most technicolour felt installation that the amazing network of people who have supported my work could come and see in person.

What have you been listening to on Spotify since this madness really kicked off?

See question 1

Dougie Wallace Eastended

Dougie Wallace

How have the unforeseen circumstances affected your practice & how have you chosen to respond creatively?

For me, as a documentary photographer, unforeseen circumstances provide a window of opportunity in that, in our trade, we’re on the frontline. While I wouldn’t in any way consider myself as a key worker (just to be clear!), historically, in any crisis, photographers are those who documented events. The COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented and it is, therefore, headline news. Magazines and newspapers require images to speak for themselves, so I have been busy shooting for The Economist, magazine. I haven’t as yet had time to think of my own creative ambitions.

How is your mental health at the moment & what are you doing to stay positive?

Like everyone, my concerns are with family, especially the elder members, and friends and the inability to be with them. But, it’s still early days and so far so good. What I plan to do to stay positive is to keep fit and especially concentrate on exercises that can be done indoors, which I have genuinely neglected as of recently because I was very busy with the launch of my new book ‘East Ended’ and exhibition. Wich got cut sort by. A few days last week. The other essential goal is to eat healthily. At the moment, the fridge is well stocked up with natural produce and all the usual immune boosting lemon, ginger, that sort of thing.

With all this potential free time, what are you going to do/ learn anything new?

I am a big, camper van enthusiast. There is a community out there, so I’ll spend time online and in real life doing up my off-grid campervan I started building last summer. There is always something new to learn and discover. That’s one thing.

What advice would you give to your fellow creative practitioners?

Probably the obvious – but now is the time to concentrate on personal projects or finishing off all that admin there is never enough time for.

What have you been listening to on Spotify since this madness really kicked off?

I am more of a Netflix guy. Just finished watching Better Call Saul – the whole series. Come to think of it, the next episode of the new series was out yesterday – so that’s definitely on my to-do list.

Buy my book here

All the best, Dougie

 

Sam Harris

Sam Harris

How have the unforeseen circumstances affected your practice & how have you chosen to respond creatively?

I have been self-isolating for years, so I am all good to go. Going to keep on making as much art as possible

How is your mental health at the moment & what are you doing to stay positive?

Running marathons in a circle in the garden.

With all this potential free time, what are you going to do/ learn anything new?

I might try to forget some things then learn them again.

What advice would you give to your fellow creative practitioners?

Keep on making art and wait inside for all this to blow over.

What have you been listening to on Spotify since this madness really kicked off?

Madness

Nettie Wakefield

Nettie Wakefield

How have the unforeseen circumstances affected your practice & how have you chosen to respond creatively?

Well, luckily I sold something just before this all kicked off, so it hasn’t been a complete disaster, YET. For a couple of days, I doodled adding masks to my own reverse portraits and on fashion magazine models. I even made a special Corona collage featuring J-lo, Eddie Murphy and Chris Whitty. Then I discovered the Artist Support Pledge. A wonderful idea posted by Mathew Burrows on Instagram where you select pieces you’re willing to sell for £200 (excluding postage) then when you reach £1000, you pledge £200 to buy another piece from another artist. I just posted mine and I’ve sold one already!

How is your mental health at the moment & what are you doing to stay positive?

I feel like I self isolate anyway so not a huge difference. I’m just taking it day by day, not catastrophizing and trying to do some exercise every day and not sit in my pants eating chocolate digestives all day. It helps that I’ve got my whippet, Simon, to hang out with.

With all this potential free time, what are you going to do/ learn anything new?

I’ll probably make some more corona collages. I have some passion pieces to finish off as well…… and a lot of Mario Kart to play!

What advice would you give to your fellow creative practitioners?

Take part in the Artists Support Pledge! Artists helping artists! Perfect!

What have you been listening to on Spotify since this madness really kicked off?

Nothing actually but if I was really going to get in the mood maybe Blue’s fly by! 🎶 “Got the city on lockdown” 🎶 … the Police – don’t stand too close to me, Gloria Gaynor – I will survive, MC Hammer – can’t touch this, The weekend – I can’t feel my face and P!NK – You make me sick.

Interviews Oliver Malin  Photos Courtesy Various Artists  Words © Artlyst 2020

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