© Firstsite. Art for life_An Arts Council Collection exhibition, Firstsite, 2021. Photograph by Aura Films (7).
“Just as I was about to take the picture my mother gently squeezed my finger. It was one of our very precious last moments together that I will never forget as long as I live.” EVEWRIGHT describing their work Mother’s Touch.
As the UK begins to emerge from the national lockdown, a new exhibition at Firstsite – part of its 10th anniversary year and reopening celebrations - provides the opportunity for us all to pause and reflect on our experiences and considers the important role art and creativity can play in community wellbeing and building resilience following the pandemic.
In June 2020, the North East Essex Clinical Commissioning Group approached Firstsite to make a project that recorded the COVID-19 experiences of NHS key workers. Working with a number of artists, including Alec Finlay, EVEWRIGHT and Roland Carline, people in frontline roles in the health and care sectors took part in a series of workshops to explore their experiences of the pandemic and the subsequent effects on their lives.
Art for Life is the fascinating and poignant result of these workshops - which guided the participants through language, poetry, calligraphy, listening and discussion-based exercises– and reflects key themes that emerged from them, including the significance of nature, walking and touch, as well as notions of time and diary keeping; innovative ways people found to measure time during a period when every day had a tendency to feel the same.
Alongside new artworks made by contemporary artists Alec Finlay, Hannah Devereux, EVEWRIGHT, Hayley Newman and Roland Carline, Art for Life also features specially-selected loans from the Arts Council Collection - with whom Firstsite is a National Partner 2019-22 – and a variety of pieces made by the keyworkers who took part in the initial workshops. There will also be artworks made by NHS art psychotherapists who generously gave up their time to support the sessions. 
Several of the artists involved suffer from the long COVID or have lost family members during the crisis. One of the most heartrending images in the exhibition is EVEWRIGHT’s Mother’s Touch, a photograph the artist took during some of the last moments he spent with his mother Clarice Agatha Reid, before she died of respiratory failure on 10 April 2020.​​​​​​​
© Firstsite. 'Mother's Touch' by EVEWRIGHT. Installation view Art for Life Firstsite 2021. Photograph by Anna Lukala
EVEWRIGHT, ‘Your Mum Clarice’, 2021 
Recorded Time: 11 mins 23 seconds

The day before and the day his mother, Clarice Agatha Reid, passed away, EVEWRIGHT made two recordings, one that captured his mother’s voice, vibrant and hopeful during her isolation in the hospital, and a second when a doctor called to inform him that she had passed away. ‘Your Mum Clarice’ attempts to capture some of the distance that is felt, when undergoing a period of forced separation from a loved one in hospital.
‘The Covid-19 pandemic has forced humanity to talk about death again and come to terms with new ways of dealing with loss in its raw naked state. This artwork has been a way for me to start the healing process. Even now when listening to the doctor giving me the bad news about the death of my mother from that very low emotional point in my life, I was able to start to rebuild again. In a way to show such a work exposes my underbelly, it is an on-going process of healing for me.’ EVEWRIGHT.
Clarice Agatha Reid passed away from Respiratory Failure on April 10th 2020 but due to the Covid-19 pandemic she was isolated from her family four weeks and four days before her death.​​​​​​​
© EVEWRIGHT. Evewright Studio & Everton Wright Ltd. All rights reserved 2021.
FIRSTSITE / Art for Life Exhibition
17 May – 5 September 2021
An exhibition made with keyworkers
An Arts Council Collection National Partners Programme Exhibition​​​​​​​
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