The RA mid-Summer Exhibition, Day 4: Social Distancing

15cmx10.5cm water colour pencils, acrylic, pen on paper

Every day, it seemed, our language was being altered with additional vocabulary. ‘Social distancing’, the words not new, but when put together, creating a new concept. The inspiration for the image above came from the work of Madge Gill (1882-1961). ‘Gill made hundreds of beautiful coloured drawings, mostly of women, alone or in a crowd. With their blank, staring eyes and faint smiles, they might represent Gill’s stillborn daughter or the situation of women more generally.’ (Voyaging Out, British Women artists from suffrage to the sixties, Carolyn Trant, page 69.)

 

The RA (Royal Avenue) mid-Summer Exhibition

Generally I dislike the mid-summer solstice. It always comes too early to be mid-way through the summer, to be mid-way through the year. This year it feels even more poorly placed. For me, the first half of 2020 has been weighted with a stew of emotions. First off, there was my contract with Constable for three novels – an ambition finally realised which I have held since I was 19. Then my father-in-law died. Then the pandemic descended. Then George Floyd was murdered. And all along, others have tragically died or been killed or been attacked or have had their lives turned upside down in one way or another.

I am aware that every day in every year is soaked in suffering for many, many people, not to mention for the earth and our fellow species. More often than not, my experience of this is mediated through the TV screen. Undoubtedly, this has continued even as I have hunkered down into my own ‘back-yard’.

There has been the counterbalance, in the form of acts of kindness and concern, cooperation and innovation. Plus, perhaps, a shifting in our joint assessment of what is important and needs preserving or changing.

These last six months, my small world has become more freighted than usual with a diverse swirl of feelings. I have responded to this with images and texts. I have decided to show them in the RA (Royal Avenue) online mid-Summer exhibition. There’s no doubt, that in some cases, the idea for the piece has outstripped my skills for realising it. However, for me, they do still capture an essence of a moment in the last half a year.

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