“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 / Art for Life Exhibition
17 May – 5 September 2021
An exhibition made with keyworkers
An Arts Council Collection National Partners Programme Exhibition