If the first wave of coronavirus lockdown made us all prime candidates for The Great British Bake Off by virtue of the quantities of baked goods made, the second is going to see petitions calling for the revival of Art Attack. We’re not talking sponge photo frames and split-pin face masks; having nailed banana bread, we’re all about to become wannabe Basquiats if the fashion industry has any influence over it.
More and more fashion designers, tastemakers and trend-setting retailers have astutely identified the joy we all find in a bit of hands-on artistic escapism during these “uncertain” – hold it – crappy times.
Take Christopher Kane who, instead of producing a ready-to-wear collection to show at London Fashion Week in September, exhibited a retrospective of the paintings he had immersed himself in from the comfort of his garden over late spring and early summer. His paintings were, he says, “mental mindscapes of a moment in time” made of acrylics, glue and glitter and gave him the creative outlet he didn’t know he was missing. “I found myself cancelling Zoom calls if I was painting something I really liked,” he tells British Vogue. “I am not one for meditating, but the practice of painting is the closest I have to that feeling.”
© photo: Filippo Fior / Gorunway.com
Over at Philosophy di Lorenzo Serafini, its namesake creative director had a similar creative epiphany. Serafini’s spring/summer 20201 collection, shown in Milan, saw models stomp through Leonardo da Vinci’s Lombardy vineyard in his paint-spattered welly boots. “My days spent at home became a rediscovery of life’s simple pleasures, like sketching and gardening,” he shares. “I spent most of the time with a pencil in hand and I felt like a painter!” Elsewhere, Loewe creative director JW Anderson sent would-be show-goers a pair of branded scissors, a paintbrush and wallpaper glue for his “show-on-the-wall” – his sequel to June’s “show-in-a-box”. Intended to take the form of an artist’s portfolio, recipients were encouraged to get pasting a piece of wallpaper by the British artist Anthea Hamilton with whom Anderson collaborated with for the collection.
It’s not just the fashion pack who are getting painterly, but the high street too. The original Cass Art store behind the National Gallery in London has just reopened to cater to demand in supplies; at 8.20pm every night for the rest of the year, the screens in Piccadilly Circus usually reserved for Coca Cola and Samsung advertising will share two minutes of artistic inspiration; and Zara Home has conveniently just launched its Art Supplies section.
Although planned long before the pandemic, the Spanish retailer’s timing couldn’t be better. Acrylic paints, brushes, mixing spatulas and wooden and ceramic palettes cover all bases – they are even selling blank canvases. “We are very focused on inspiring our clients,” a spokesperson for the brand told us, “and even before lockdown we realised there are many activities you can do and skills you can develop around the home [like] painting!”
Take it from one who knows. Broadcaster and designer Laura Jackson – responsible for spreading joy with her #MakeAMealOfIt during lockdown – is one of the many influential fashion figures to have given painting a shot.
“Lockdown has given us a chance to explore ourselves and our capabilities [which] has allowed time to discover new skills and hobbies that perhaps you ‘didn’t have time for’ previously,” she tells us. Her XXL masterpiece hangs in the hallway of her home. “Listen, I’m no Basquiat, but I like the fact that it’s mine and I made it,” she says. “I think the beauty of art and creativity is it’s all subjective in the eye of the beholder, there are no rules.”
Which leads us to probably the best thing about this 2.0 trend: anything goes. Unlike tie-dye, banana bread or anything edible for that matter, painting can rarely go wrong.
“It doesn’t matter if I like it or not, nor if anyone else does either,” says Kane. “If you can paint and produce something raw that reflects how you feel in a way that is untarnished or influenced by others, even if it’s not technically perfect or prize winning, then it’s 100 per cent worthwhile. Painting is another form of communication and shared stories are what drives us forward when things get tough.”
It’s convincing pep talk from Kane; having trusted his rationale I can confirm that when I started pushing oil paint around with a palette knife last week – in the name of research, of course – it was, indeed, as mindful as it was messy (and definitely more kindergarten than Krasner).
As Neil Buchanan would say: “Try it yourself.”
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