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Is Isolation Essential for the Arts?

There is no doubt that this year has been hard on everyone. In the first half of the year there was a mixture of self loathing and despair. The main focus has been death and it’s not like we need more attention brought to the fact that we have limited time on this planet. I can only think that the separation of community and unfamiliarity of being introspective is to blame. We were all living such fast paced lives filled with fast fashion, fast holidays and a need to make more fast money before the fast economy succumbed to a fast (or maybe long) recession - but don’t ask me about the economy, I’m just an artist. I feel that it must be difficult for those who find transition hard, especially when conspiracy is at an all time high.

For me, I am both introverted and extroverted. My first isolation period was three years ago. I had just broken up with my ex boyfriend, I was feeling a sense of loss. I was grieving losing both my best friend and mentor. I decided that instead of losing myself in the bottom of a bottle of Jameson in a bar I was going to focus solely on my art and bettering my mental health. And I did. This period of self inflicted isolation lasted about two whole years. I found a weird solace in my own company. I made no effort to go out and mostly spent my time on the weekends at the coast (Castaways Beach and Coolum on the Sunshine Coast is beautiful for anyone looking to travel post pandemic). The second round of isolation was different... 

At first I found it hard to accept. I had only just started going out more and being social with reconnected friendships which was a part of my weekend routine. I was forcefully being shut out from my friends and family, left to my own devices (literally) with alcohol and my antidepressants to help lift me up when the isolation blues kicked in. I had some comfort in knowing that long before this second spell that there was a difference between being lonely and alone. (I won’t ruin the realisation for you, but I highly suggest you give it some thought.) So…. the transition this year wasn’t something I found problematic. I just felt as though, to put it lightly, I was going through another bad break up.

Last night I read an article about Tracey Emin’s latest works which she has created during the pandemic. I adore Tracey Emin’s work. I think she is the greatest contemporary artist of our time. Her vulnerability and powerful attitude towards creating her art ensures a feeling of commonality and casual comfortability that I haven’t experienced before. Her online exhibition is titled “I Thrive on Solitude”, I think the title really explains it all. In her work she discusses how isolation helped her become more raw and open to her art. Even through the loss of her cousin due to COVID, she still finds intrepidity to create. Something I find to be courageous. Tracey is also known to be a social butterfly with introverted qualities. She often recluses off to her studio in the South of France to create her masterpieces. I feel as though this period was something she is familiar with.

The article got me thinking…. is this period essential for the arts? I believe it is. Every time I think about this question I come back to the cliche thought that artists are internally tortured and culture puts such a great emphasis on how we should be, what we should be doing and how we should be creating. By loosening up expectations I feel that the “eternal struggle” lessens, it makes way for nonchalance. I can only speak from my own experience with seclusion and it has always allowed for me to become unoccupied with the unnecessaries that a fast paced lifestyle brings along and the anxiety I feel seems to vanish. I feel at peace.

During my break up I used that energy and transferred it into my artwork. Similarly to the situation I found myself in three months ago, I was able to make some really beautiful artworks. Some that I will probably never sell because it presented a growth opportunity for me. Throughout isolation I have been able to learn new techniques that I wouldn’t have gained if I didn’t take the time to be present with my art. I have had ample amount of opportunity to work with more amazing clients and expand on my style that formed last year. If anything, I have used this time to be more connected to my digital and hand made artworks. It’s cathartic and enlightening. It’s pure bliss!

If I find myself in isolation again, something I think will happen, I hope I use it as a way to be more present, open and relaxed. I think a fast paced life is not for me, I think I will just continue to go at my own pace.

If you find yourself in isolation, struggling, unsure of what will happen… I say to you something a very good friend told me during my break up, “you can’t control the uncontrollable”. Once you let go of that idea, that you can, surrender to the surroundings you have and what hand you’ve been dealt, the better you will be for it.