Art in the time of COVID-19
Art, it's said, germinates from pain, anxiety and grief. Of course, it finds its roots in love, warmth and comfort too. But it's widely held that we cannot create an authentic work of art unless we overcome pain. In these testing times, we're being pushed to our limits. We need to exhibit strength and compassion to sail through this global crisis together. And we seem to be doing a good job of it too, for artists all over the UAE have come together to reflect on these times, their thoughts finding a voice in the strokes of a brush. This week, we (virtually) step into the studios of a few.
Sugat S. Priyadarshi, a visual artist and HOD of the art department at JSS International School, Al Barsha, is working on a series on the current crisis. Over the last 30 years, he's had an inclination towards socially relevant topics as subject matter for his work. "As the UAE and the rest of the world face tough times, I want to spread some positivity and remind everyone that there's hope for us. This is also my way of expressing gratitude towards the tireless hours of work that the healthcare professionals and other essential service personnel, globally, are doing at the risk of their well-being," he says.
Pari Sagar believes that art is the process of creating a world that tells stories and helps one heal, a blend of creative freedom and self-expression. "When I was creating this piece, I visualised how we, as human beings, have contaminated nature to the point where we are now facing a global pandemic. And now, to stay safe, we need to practise social distancing and stay inside while nature takes back what rightfully belongs to it," she says of her work titled, Contamination. "The silver lining is that the planet is healing. I hope that when all this is over, we have a greater appreciation for nature and human connection, and continue to stay healthy and be kind," she adds.
Another expression comes from Elton Lipanta, who works as an administrator in Dubai. For Lipanta, painting is a stress reliever and he feels good in the company of paints and brushes. "I am an active volunteer in the Filipino community and always look forward to spreading awareness on issues of importance," he says. Lipanta has created DIY masks, which come with words like Mahal ko ang aking pamilya kaya ako ay susunod sa mga batas at rules ng govt (I love my family, that's why I will follow the rules and regulation of the government) and Pagod na mga frontliners natin! Wag na po pasaway, manatili po sa bahay (Our frontliners are tired, let's not add to their burden, let us stay home). "We're working from home and so I thought of supporting the #stayhome campaign as well as spreading awareness via art. This is my way of thanking our frontliners and the UAE government for taking care of us," he says.
Depicting the current state of mind of many of us is Afshan Quraishi's work-in-progress titled Hope & Anxiety. "The two facets of these unpredictable times, taking turns in dominance," shares the contemporary artist, who believes that, as an artist, it is important for one to express oneself and whose work is autobiographical in a sense. "These are unprecedented times and will pass soon. Let's make use of these days by reinventing ourselves and strengthening our spiritual, mental, physical and creative sides. We should focus on spreading positivity rather than pondering on what is not in our capacity to correct, express gratitude for all who are safe at home, and say prayers for those who are sick," she says.
It's overwhelming to see how not just the art community, but others as well are spreading the cheer and helping one another to wade through these times. Until next time, keep creating and stay safe.