Art

Renowned artist Adia Wahid explains “How to get into art and get a cultural fix during quarantine

Wahid a graduate of the Royal College of Art and represented by Stellar International Art Foundation writes…..

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread and lockdowns remain in place across the world, a new reality is taking shape. At the advice of medical experts and Governmental bodies, global citizens are living in the midst of sustained periods of self-isolation and adhering to new social distancing measures.

With movement restricted and interaction kept to the bare minimum, the cultural sector has quickly slowed to a halt. Galleries, museums, and theatres most remain closed, and fairs that populate the annual calendar have been cancelled or postponed indefinitely.

Whilst it is concerning to see the arts industry temporarily falling by the wayside, it is during moments of such upheaval that art and design can innovate and offer their greatest contribution to society.

Weekdays without a commute and weekends spent in the new hybrid home / office space can leave people feeling restless, cut off from their regular interactions and societal norms. So rather than letting the boredom and anxiety of isolation creep in, now is the perfect time to enrich your life with a new skill or interactive experience that not only occupies your newfound free time, but also comes as a welcome distraction from the uncertain present.

The benefits of getting into art

Not only can art offer a powerful means of connection during this time, it is also a very mindful practice.In fact, an all-party Parliamentary group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing found that 82% of people reported greater wellbeing after engaging with the arts.

Making or interacting with art not only requires a degree of concentration and immerses people in the moment, but also the act of creating something can help one’s sense of self-efficacy and purpose. At a time when many people feel unsettled from losing their routines and their freedom, adopting a holistic approach is essential in maintaining our mental health. Creating, sharing and using this time constructively as a form of ‘real’ self-expression, instead of the ‘virtual’ one we are used to on social media, can provide a great outlet for our emotions and help us to stop dwelling on the uncertainty.

Whether it is getting into drawing, painting, photography or sculpting, or if you would prefer to tune into an artist’s podcast, everyone is able to channel their anxieties into a healthier space.

I would recommend that you start with what you enjoy, whether that is a practice that brings back fond memories from art lessons at school or one that you usually enjoy appreciating from afar. However, whether it’s an old skill you want to brush up on or a new one you’ve been wanting to try, don’t feel restricted and think that you then have to stick to one medium, material or technique. There are no rules or guidelines.

Let inspiration come from anywhere, whether that is your surroundings, your imagination or even the camera roll on your phone. Staying inside does not have to be limiting. Get creative and start to re-imagine what’s right in front of you. Having started out at the kitchen table myself – creating quick sketches whilst I had a spare five minutes – I can vouch that you don’t need to be an established artist or have a fully equipped studio to explore your creative side in lockdown.

Getting your cultural fix online

Since going into lockdown, a number of free art classes, tutorials and resources having become available online that can help guide you on your creative journey – and the list keeps growing.

However, if picking up a paint brush or immersing yourself in an online sculpting tutorial does not appeal to you, you can still get your cultural fix in quarantine.

Whilst the art world is undoubtedly struggling amid the global crisis and facing pressures like never before, this period has also forced cultural boards to reflect and re-imagine how society engages with the arts.

Adia Wahid

Galleries across the world are now doing everything they can to help bridge the gap enforced by social distancing with digital initiatives. For example, Art Basel’s Hong Kong Fair launched online viewing rooms which enabled 250,000 members of the public to view over 2,000 works of art from the comfort of their own home. To put the success of this venture in perspective, last year’s fair was attended by around 88,000 visitors.

Moreover, galleries and museums from The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and Van Gogh’s Museum in Amsterdam to the Guggenheim in Bilbao and The National Gallery in London have all opened their doors to offer digital, curated-led tours of their exhibitions. So, whether you want to spend your weekend exploring Andy Warhol’s latest exhibition at the Tate or tuning into a talk held with the curator of the V&A, the art world has never been more accessible.

In addition to this, a number of digital art platforms have emerged in response to the current crisis, offering individuals a more interactive experience. For example, AORA is a virtual platform that aims to instill a sense of calm and wellbeing by immersing viewers in a virtual space where art, music and architecture combine. Art podcasts are also mushrooming every week. One of the best ones I have come across is Katy Hessel’s – The Great Women Artist.

Looking ahead

I am fortunate enough to be supported by the Stellar International Art Foundation and exhibited my work at the Foundation’s annual event for International Women’s Day earlier this year. The foundation focuses on supporting female artists with a strong social relevance by providing a platform to showcase their work and engage with society. I can speak from experience that having the backing of such an innovative foundation during this unprecedented time has been invaluable.

Despite traditional platforms being temporarily unavailable, the current crisis has also triggered a significant period of transformation in the art world. Now it is crucial that galleries, museums, cultural boards, artists, and foundations alike all continue to come together throughout and beyond the pandemic to find innovative ways to open up and engage with society. In such an unprecedented period it is crucial that we find new ways to support struggling artists so that the industry can continue to thrive.

Although for now the doors remain closed, culture does not stop, and we cannot overlook the importance of developing these connections whilst in lockdown. Building creative activity into our new daily routines not only helps us to occupy ourselves during this worrying time, but also to process the new stresses we are experiencing and lift our spirits.

Ultimately the resources are there. All that is left to do is embrace our creative flare and turn this uncertain period into a new opportunity.

Adia Wahid

The Pakistani born artist is represented by Stellar International Art Foundation. She graduated from the London School of Economics and Political Science with an Economics Degree before pursuing a career as an artist. Having completed her BA at the Chelsea College of Art and Design, Adia went on to train at the Royal College of Art where she received her MA. Her training in both economics and arts has inspired her to create a collection in which the two coexist. Adia has also lived in the USA, Singapore and South Korea. Today she lives and works in London and has exhibited extensively across London including at The Royal College of Art and The Palace of Westminster, a solo exhibition at the Alice Black Art Gallery, and wider UK, France and Switzerland. Her work is held in private collections and in a public collection at The New York Presbyterian Hospital.

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