Is isolation conducive to creativity? Quite the question… In an attempt to answer it, Artsper takes you behind the scenes of three artist’s visualisations of lockdown, deciphered by the artists themselves. Let’s immerse ourselves in the works of Dano Masala, Jone Hopper and Peter Mammes, all intimate testimonies and reflections on universal questions.
An emotional and introspective work: Self Confinement by Dano Masala
Although the concept of the painting predates the crisis, it is nonetheless intensified by the situation, explains artist Dano Masala: ‘the first flashes of inspiration came to me for this painting following a trip to Réunion and Mauritius: composition, colours, forms and patterns. I started to paint at the very beginning of the Covid-19 crisis, and the tension was palpable in the media, Wuhan had been placed under lockdown due to the spread of a virus. When faced with my canvas, I already had an overall idea of the painting and its subject. The experience of the strict confinement of an entire population inspired the title of this painting: ‘Self Confinement, The Confinement of the Self’.
This work irresistibly attracts our gaze thanks to the attitude of the main subject and the large area dedicated to the colour red. The artist’s intention was to encourage self-identification within the spectators, their understanding of the work, and even more so, in ‘their involvement in a process of psychological and spiritual evolution’.
It is a canvas which is directly inspired by the artist’s emotions and lived experience but that equally invites introspection in the viewer. Indeed, Dano Masala confides in us that ‘this painting is the realisation in pictorial form of what we in the world of transformative communication call ‘grungies’. Grungies are emotional games that our unconscious puts in place during our childhood and throughout our life in order to protect itself. Working as a survival reflex in the beginning, they later become burdens, cages and barriers to our inner self, to our true identity’.
It is to represent these ‘grungies’ that the artist has chosen to give prominence to the colour red, which can be compared to the subject’s mental state, a prisoner of himself and his past emotions. The background thus represents ‘the tedious and painful step of getting rid of our damage’. Meanwhile, the upper portion of the canvas depicts a pattern, which to him represents the result of this process, a way of showing that people can ‘get their head above water and that the world will once again open itself up, a clearer and more colourful world where you can be yourself’.
In this way the canvas, like a path that each of us can follow within ourselves, offers a message of hope in these complex times. It also holds a special meaning for the artist. He tells us that ‘although it is in line with my artistic discourse, it is the first work where I represent one of the ‘difficult’, ‘dark’ states that human beings can go through’.
We invite you to discover the other works by this artist on Artsper. Dano Masala is represented by Galerie Superposition in Lyon, which since its creation in 2016 has been supporting local emerging artists through pioneering events such as exhibitions, urban art festivals and artistic projects in public spaces.
An intimate and instinctive work: Confined in a red room by Jone Hopper
This artwork, created at the end of the first week of lockdown, perfectly captures the feeling of isolation and solitude, ‘a moment of pause that invites us to finally focus on ourselves’ explains artist Jone Hopper. It is in its own way a testimony, thanks to the painting of ‘the barely believable reality that has shaken the whole of humanity, our habits, our freedom. The human being is thus confronted with his consciousness, doubts and rediscovering his surrounding environment, but also his hopes for a better future’ specifies the artist.
A special canvas, because during its creation he felt lonely for the first time. And yet Jone Hopper is well accustomed to isolation, working in his studio from 8am to 8pm every day, almost without seeing anyone. But the big difference this time is that he ‘feels like he has no choice, which is the most disturbing thing. Usually I run away from the hustle and bustle of the city, its noise, its people, its madness, but I know that I am supported and that I can be with my family and friends whenever I want’. A feeling undoubtedly shared by most people at the moment!
Much like a personal diary, this work highlights the artist’s feelings towards lockdown: ‘an unexpected event and therefore inherently undefinable, a situation where words are not enough, not for me’. For when words are not enough, his painting perfectly encapsulates his emotions.
Indeed, the portrait format instantly manifests within the viewer that feeling of being in a narrow room with little freedom of movement. The red background, which reminds us of Dano Masala’s piece, was chosen by the artist due to its ambiguity, the colour being associated as much to love as it is to anger. Jone Hopper notes that ‘for me it also refers to David Lynch’s famous Red Room, which immerses us into a hallucinatory world’. A technique also appreciated by other renowned street artists.
The aim of this work was not to convey a message, but to induce a sensation, to allow the spectator to appropriate it with their own experience and story, to make them think about the way they live when confronted with themself, deprived in part of their basic freedom. This work corresponds with the artist’s current work. Jone Hopper paints by instinct, following his moods and desires, combining acrylic, aerosol and oil pastel. It is a way for him to ‘maintain his bearings in an overwhelming time’.
We will leave the final words to the artist: ‘I will conclude with this quote from Francis Bacon ‘A man is but what he knoweth’. I think that this troubled period, this extraordinary event, must lead us to question our consciences, and evaluate our society to draw a better future from it’.
You can find his works on Artsper and at Galerie é, based in Switzerland, which aims to create a unique link between the artist and the public to make emotions accessible to everyone.
An inspiring and politically engaged work: Healthcare by Peter Mammes
This final piece by artist Peter Mammes differs from the two preceding works because it is not a painting but a drawing. Nevertheless, it is also a testimony, the expression of the artist’s vision of lockdown, as he himself tells us: ‘I made this drawing in Lockdown in my studio in London in the first week of April 2020. I made it in response to the fumbling and incompetence I saw around me, but I also made it to show the heroism and sacrifice that people are making’.
Thus, this drawing is a representation of the quarantine in which not only the artist, but also the whole society finds itself at present. A work that is not the fruit of an inner introspection like those of Dano Masala and Jone Hopper, but rather a reaction to the lockdown situation and ‘the government and politicians’ handling of the lockdown’. His stance on which is clear!
‘My work has always been about disillusionment and doubt about authority. I want to share my experience of disillusionment, I want to give the viewer a sense of my despair and anger that I feel towards the lies that we have been told, the narratives that have been forced upon us by governments and officials. This lockdown has really highlighted the complete incompetence and ineptitude of authority figures’.
To further emphasise this feeling, Peter Mammes chooses to concentrate on the sobriety of the drawing alone, as he explains to us: ‘I believe in the purity of black lines, drawing is always the focus of my thoughts and I spend particular effort to perfect and simplify the line work as to make a beautiful drawing’. Additionally, he has also created works in colour, which we invite you to discover on Artsper.
Overall, the spectator is faced with a drawing that is engaged with the world around it, which bears with it a testimony to current events and a clear statement made by the artist. It is a work that is entirely in keeping with Peter Mammes’ repertoire and favoured subjects, and he himself concludes that ‘this artwork is the epitome of my work’.
Art as a witness
So artists all over the world have experienced the announcement of lockdown as a shock. Conclusion? An impression of rupture and conflicting emotions, between doubt, anger and hope, which enrich their current work. Through different mediums, sensitivities and methods, each one delivers their feelings on a complex and unexpected situation. With these three works, deciphered by the artists themselves, Artsper shares their emotions, but also the way that lockdown has influenced their work day-to-day. And how about you, which work resonates the most with you?