Banner image: Clockwise - images courtesy of Letty McHugh, Ashokkumar D Mistry, and Fae Kilburn

Lockdown began in March and has, for everyone, been a very peculiar experience. For some of our artists, however, the peculiarity arises from how similar lockdown feels to times they have already experienced. As people begin to listen to what disabled people have long been saying, we asked our artists whether anything has changed and how they've been getting on during lockdown.

Lauren Saunders

Lockdown has very much felt like an extension of what was already happening to be honest. I've been mostly indoors since November following a spinal fracture, meaning I haven't felt the shock to the system that most people seem to have experienced! When lockdown began we were in the process of moving house, so I'm fortunate that I've had the excitement of a new house to keep me distracted and busy. But, like many of us seem to be experiencing, the days seem to bleed into one another, don't they? 

A collage of photos from Lauren. One of her black and white cat, one of her 30th birthday chocolate cake. One is a poster advertising the Ways of Seeing book residency. The final is a flyer for Wellcome

Images courtesy of Lauren.

This is what the last few months have looked like (in no particular order): 

Scrambling. Unpacking. Organising, TV. Day in the Life: DAO. Solicitors. Lamenting cancelled holidays. Obsessing about the news. 30th Birthday. Campaign Bootcamp. Missing Cat. Life Drawing. Re-organising. Sleeping too much. Panic attacks. Animal Crossing. Updating the website. Gardening. Ukeleleing. Raging at the Government. Slobbing around. Feeling incredibly content. Going on the radio. ONE Book Residency - Ways of Seeing. More TV. Celebrating. Starting back at work. Ideas Hub Introductions. Counselling. Family Houseparty Quiz Nights. Reading philosophical non-fiction. Total despair. Getting back into The Critical Fish. Playing Pokémon Go. Endless WhatsApp chats. Repainting old picture frames. Not sleeping at all. Feeling hopeful for the new post-COVID world. Art Jam. Fearing for infected friends and family. Fanatically avoiding the news. Laying around a lot. Baking pineapple upside down cakes. Acorn union-ing. Zoom. #WeShallNotBeRemoved

Tony Heaton OBE

I was just about to buy all my tickets for my month-long carving trip in May to Carrara in North West Italy when I heard reports of the spread of this thing called Coronavirus in Lombardy, very close to ArcoArte where I go to carve each year. I thought I would wait a while to see what would happen. Of course, now we all know what happened. Thankfully, I didn’t book.

This cancellation was followed by the cancellation of my solo show at Bury Art Museum and Sculpture Space for July-October, a real blow as this would have been a great opportunity to show new work and widen my profile in the North West.

My sculpture, Gold Lamé, went up to Glasgow on long-term loan to the Riverside Museum just before lock-down but is now in storage as the museum closed before it could be installed. Similarly the brilliant show curated by Anne Berry at MAC finished just in time but my work is also in lock down there!

In addition, all my arts consultancy work was cancelled, it was looking grim.

Three images from Tony

Images courtesy of Tony.

On the positive side, I had just negotiated the casting of a Bronze medal commissioned by BAMS. This was cast just in time and is ready for the launch is summer.

I had a commission underway for a disability-led organisation on the south coast and I was likely to sell a neon work to a public art gallery, so all was not entirely lost.

The Treasury loaned me a small grant from the self-employment scheme and amazingly I applied for and received a grant from the Freelands Foundation emergency fund for artists – this is a real life-line.

My studio is a ten minute wheel from home so I have been working during lock-down but in splendid isolation, tricky as I usually have assistance but due to social distancing this has been impossible. Having some money meant I could invest in a ‘Strong-Arm’ hydraulic lift for moving stone and marble, this has been invaluable.

Life has changed, the sociable studio is now cell-like, but work continues. Opportunities have been lost but different ones will appear. I remain optimistic, onwards…!

Ashokkumar D Mistry

Don’t worry, nobody’s coming round

After the panic subsided, I realised that my situation was actually really close to the everyday I lived before the pandemic. The same situation at home, the same solitude, the same underlying sense of alienation and the same thoughts whirring through my head. The only difference was that I now had to also contend with homeschooling my kids and cook from scratch for them during the day. 

I guess this notion of being out of view is something we, as disabled artists, are so used to and something we need to tackle.

The reflection of Ashokkumars kitchen in his window at night. There is a sombre energy to the photo.

Many people have questioned what we will wake up to when this is all over and this was and remains frightening. Looking into the darkness from my kitchen window every night, the reflection from within the house pointed the way beyond the sameness of the view outside.

An image that has stuck in my head is of a reflection of our living room in our kitchen window after I had turned off the kitchen light after dark (see right). Toys and tents strewn around the living room in a kind of “don't worry, no one is coming around to see us” kind of way.

I guess this notion of being out of view is something we, as disabled artists, are so used to and something we need to tackle. We need to understand why we’ve been out of view. Is it because we didn’t want to be seen or because others don’t like what they see?

We all feel out of view, but in a weird way, disabled artists are now being 'seen' more than ever. CEOs and leaders from the art sector have come out of the woodwork and spoken about isolation and more recently, about racism, disability and inequality. And suddenly, I'm lost for words. Is it that they get it now? Really? 

A collage of three images. One of Ashokkumar

Images courtesy of Ashokkumar.

Look closer and you see that we are all zooming from within our domestic dishevelment. We are all in the same mess, together and have an opportunity now, since the artifice of professionalism has fallen away. We can have a conversation (on Twitter at least) with people who were otherwise out of reach. We need to speak up! The only problem is: what does one say? Or rather, where does one start?

Anita Roye

During this period of social isolation, I have been taking inspiration from nature and my daily walk. The local pond has been swamped by algae due to the hot weather, killing some of the lifeforms in the pond. I relate the metaphor of algae being anxiety, when it is a small amount it helps to move us forward. But when it outgrows its purpose, it suffocates, chokes, and strangles, leaving us unable to break free.

My art room has become an installation space, where I have used the space to put on my own exhibitions, experimenting with materials, colouring, and stiffening fabrics.

This can be seen in ‘Blanket weed’ and ‘Inside Out’, I have been using this starting point to experiment with different ideas.  My art room has become an installation space, where I have used the space to put on my own exhibitions, experimenting with materials, colouring, and stiffening fabrics. This process is related to trapping layers of colours and form in organic structures. This work has grown and is taking over my art room space, just like the algae in the pond.  

Three pictures in a collage. One shows Anita

Images courtesy of Anita.

The Covid-19 crisis has been a difficult time for many, but for those with added pressures, it can see the rise of mental health issues due to the lack of routine and isolation. Having ADHD is not great in lockdown, but I have reached out to my local community, sharing images in a group chat and Instagram. Today is Wednesday, this is the morning that I meet two friends on Skype for a weekly catch up and to do some art. I have never really been into technology but since the lockdown, I have used it a lot, and to be honest, it has been a life saver! Don't get me wrong, it would never replace experiencing a large-scale visceral painting or installation. I have also used my time to apply for art residencies, as I would love to develop these ideas to create site specific work based on unseen disabilities and mental health.

Fae Kilburn

My name is Fae Kilburn. I’m a fine artist specialising in printmaking and an arts facilitator.

Last year I decided to start my MA at BCU and, like all students during the Covid-19 pandemic, I’ve had to adapt to studying at home. This has had its challenges and I miss working with and learning from the technicians and students and using the facilities, but having to create art from home with limited materials and space has lead me to explore new ways of creating art, including etched sculptures and print video installations that document my experiences during lockdown, both positive and negative. Text has become an important part of my practice during this time. I’ve created art incorporating the words of others and this body of work lead to me recording lockdown words, feelings, and experiences and these will be combined in my prints and sculptures.

Five images in a collage. Three show progress of the same work: a sculpture with

Images courtesy of Fae.

My garden has become my safe haven. I know how fortunate I am to have outside space, where I can sit and create work. I use it as my temporary gallery and enjoy listening to nature.

I have found this period of enforced isolation stimulating, I have more energy to create art because I’m not wasting it on travel or getting distracted by other things. Art has been my focus throughout this period and gives me something positive to focus on during a time when I am unable to see my family. I feel have developed as an artist and broadened my skill set during this time.

In a lot of ways, I feel like living with a chronic illness has been like a training camp for life in lock down. The uncertainty, being stuck in the house, feeling like your life is on hold. This is my bread and butter...

Letty McHugh

Lockdown has been weird for me, I’m sure it’s been a pretty weird time universally, but this is how it’s been weird for me specifically. I moved back in with my Mum and Dad the night before lockdown officially started, I live alone, but my parents only live five minutes away and my life is sometimes dependent on the fact they can easily drop in to help me out. We were worried about what would happen if I had an MS relapse and they couldn’t get to me to help. It’s been an adjustment living with other humans, I’m not used to thinking about what my face is doing full time anymore. It turned out to be a very sensible decision though, as in the spirit of it never rains but it pours, I did have an MS relapse. I spent all of April and most of May sleeping roughly 20 hours a day and spending the other four thinking about how much my eyes hurt.

Three images in a collage. One is a

Images courtesy of Letty.

In a lot of ways, I feel like living with a chronic illness has been like a training camp for life in lock down. The uncertainty, being stuck in the house, feeling like your life is on hold. This is my bread and butter, none of this is new to me and as I’m getting back to work, I think I’m finding it easier than my creative friends who are experiencing this for the first time.

Work wise, I’ve mainly been concentrating on my revived project Love, Letty x, a sort of comedy Agony Aunt on Instagram. It’s mostly daft and fun, which is what I need in my life right now.

My recent bout of fatigue has inspired a new project, it’s a fledgling thing, still a bit secret, but I’m very excited about it. I think it’s going to grow into a good one.