Lockdown Art Project: 40 nights / 40 DAYS from the Lock Down (2020)

 At the beginning of the COVID-19 lockdown, I set up a small desk in my bedroom as a makeshift studio. Armed with a set of newly acquired Winsor Newton artist’s-quality watercolours and a stack of Fabriano postcard paper books, I set myself the task of completing one painting a day.

My partner’s father, an archaeologist by profession, had left us with piles of old National Geographic magazines; each one full of their remarkable photographs. Daily, I thus selected an image that resonated to inspire a small watercolour that reflected my internal state. 

The chosen images were mostly of single human beings, dwarfed by the vastness of implacable natural settings, in places that evoke the experience of the Sublime. These were always challenging environments: places too severe for human habitation, potentially life-threatening situations.  I was grateful to the brave image-authors for bringing spaciousness to the constraint of lockdown. Several images fell outside this theme, but since they also somehow commented truthfully on my everyday experience, I included these as well.

On the reverse of the postcards (where address and message are normally written), I give thanks to my inspiration by referencing the ‘address’ of the image: the article title, edition, page number and the photographer. 
I realized I also needed a ‘message’ to send to the imagined ‘recipients’ of my postcards.  A friend, John Higgins, was coincidently working on a lockdown writing project of his own. 

As a writer and academic, John has long been interested in the question of montage – in film, visual media and in writing.  As Lockdown took hold, John says he found himself, “like many people, obsessively reading about the COVID-19 pandemic and trying to find ways to deal with the strange combination of emotional and informational overload in the enforced freedom from the usual structuring routines of work.” As something of an active response to the increasingly eerie situation, he began to assemble a number of montage texts.  

These brought together and set against each other, fragments of national and international news coverage and commentary with other varied readings from his day. The sources from which the textual fragments were torn included media coverage from radio, television, and online sources such as Daily MaverickThe Guardian, the Washington Post and the New York Times; Li Edelkoort’s Business of Fashion podcast; and (dusted off and taken down from the bookshelves) Sir Edmund Burke Philosophical Inquiry into the Origins of our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful (T. Noble: London 1845); Plato Protagoras and Meno (Penguin: Harmondsworth 1956); John Ruskin Modern Painters Volume 1 (Dent: London 1935); John Ruskin The Stones of Venice (George Allen: London 1906). 

John Higgin’s written ‘messages’ and my images have come together as joint postcards sent each day from the uncharted inner depths ‘visited’ across forty nights and days of lockdown.

To order the artist's book with the poems, paintings and information please email me at hanienconradie@gmail.com 


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