With the end of lockdown in the UK now in sight, Darklight Art Co-Founder Sarah Williams discusses the effect the past year has had on us and the impact art can have on our mentality.
Our homes have never been more important to us. In the past year they have been our sanctuaries, our schools, our offices, restaurants and even home galleries. We have had more social interactions [albeit on a screen] here than ever before. As well as being our safe space, they have also become a place we are desperate to get out of, to escape from
Until this week’s announcement in the UK, the idea of a trip away, for most of us, had become a complete fantasy. A lack of money and extreme travel restrictions have left us dreaming of far-off lands and even not so far-off lands. Right now anywhere outside the M25 would feel like the trip of a lifetime to me. Our minds were left to wander and reminisce from the same four walls we’ve been staring at all year.
So what has this done to our creativity and our motivation? Back when things were ‘normal,’ a conversation and laughs with friends in the pub would re-boot our souls and give us the energy to tackle whatever our clients or bosses threw at us the next day. A weekend trip to a gallery was a truly wonderful way to escape for a few hours. There was something so magical about walking into the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern or lifting your head up to the lofty ceilings of the Royal Academy. Art has the power to transport us to another place.
Back in 2016 I went to an exhibition by Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson at the Barbican. I didn’t have much expectation, so I walked in fairly nonchalantly and was instantly blown away by the melodic sounds of multiple voices singing and playing guitars in beautiful harmony. People were lounging on the floor and sitting on sofas gently playing instruments. I stood there for 20 minutes, listening. I was captivated and almost drawn to tears. In the next room there was an equally transcendent experience a video projected onto every wall, playing a film of people singing in unison in a big old character-filled house in upstate New York. All in separate rooms, but in complete harmony. It was spellbinding. I lay on the floor and listened and watched and smiled and probably cried a little bit too [I’m not even a crier].
I honestly felt like I was floating on a cloud. It’s hard to do it justice, but my point being I felt like I was far away. I could have stayed there for hours. It was quite a jolt to be back in the hustle and bustle of east London’s streets. But my mood had shifted and I felt completely refreshed. As good as a holiday, one might say.
Without being able to get away, even to a gallery, our space has become vital to our wellbeing. It’s never been more important to fill our spaces with things we love that will brighten our mood. To be surrounded by art, photography, or books that lift your spirit or remind you of someone you adore; a magical time in your life or maybe a piece you just love to get lost in, can be so refreshing for the mind.
When you observe a profound piece of art you are potentially firing the same neurons as the artist did when they created it; making new neural pathways and stimulating a state of inspiration. The ability of art, combined with our powerful human imagination, to transport us to other realms is astounding.
A study conducted on the effects of observing art [by professor Senior Zeki, UCL] showed what happens in the brain when you look at beautiful artwork.
The experiment concluded that when you look at art, “whether it is a landscape, a still life, an abstract or a portrait – there is strong activity in the part of the brain related to pleasure.” When viewing art subjects considered most beautiful, their blood flow increased in a certain part of the brain by as much as 10% – the equivalent to gazing into the eyes of a loved one.
So if I stare at a piece of art I love AND it already makes me feel like I’m far, far away, I will transcend to a happy place, full of positive emotions. If that’s the case, then I think Marco Walker’s works are probably the ultimate example of escapism for me. Marco’s images are full of big bold landscapes in neon purple and electric pinks; bright sunny skies and dreamlike vistas.
‘Escapism has always been a big part of my work but the bigger message is to get people to wake up to our surroundings’ Marco Walker
A year ago, this piece would have just been about supporting artists and making your home look nice, but now it’s become apparent that this is actually something that we have needed to keep us sane. Without travel, galleries or even friends to exchange stories with and only our own walls to look at, art has become essential to our sanity. Art IS our escape.