Rachel Levin, a popular art lecturer who often lectures at the Bernard Betel Centre for our weekly Tuesday Lifelong Learning Lectures, has provided a lovely write-up for the Bernard Betel Centre community on art in the time of COVID-19. Enjoy!
Museums and galleries across the world have closed their doors temporarily to help slow the spread of coronavirus. Fortunately, we can still view their collections and temporary exhibits online from the comfort of our homes. Many contemporary artists have chosen to contribute to Public Art, better known as ‘Street Art’, and other artists illustrate political articles in various newspapers or created posters. ‘Street Art’ artists have created vibrant outdoor murals that bring colour to public spaces that were previously empty. These art works capture not only the devastating impact of the virus, but also show hope in overcoming it.
Following below are a few of those art works, including links for more information.
Ola Baldych is an American Graphic designer, photographer and visual artist living in New York. She created posters promoting wearing masks and sanitizing your hands.
The next illustration by Klawe Rzeczy was published in The Economist on April 4, 2020 accompanied an article titled: ‘France’s Napoleonic approach to Covid-19’. Klawe Rzeczy is a Polish Illustrator and a Collage Artist who lives in Łódź. Klawe creates political illustrations, book covers and posters. He used the classical painting Napoleon Crossing the Alps (1801) by the French artist Jacques-Louis David (1748–1825).
Next is a mural by Andreas Welin titled ‘Covfefe-19’ I take no responsibility for painting this piece. Andreas Welin (b. 1993) is a Street Art artist who lives & works in Copenhagen.
Artist’s statement: “My passion for traveling has taken me all around the world, meeting the coolest world class artists. I have been making a living from painting wall art and decoration for several companies and private people! I get inspiration from what’s happening in society; I like to blend the graffiti with traditional art and give it a different expression, so I stand out”.
The next mural is by Lionel Stanhope who is a Street Artist living in Brockley South-East London. He used Jan van Eyck’s (1390–1441) self-portrait, better known as Man in a Red Turban (1433), to create his mural. The mural is painted on a bridge wall in Ladywell, south-east London. Lionel Stanhope (b. 1968) is best known for his giant murals near railway stations, a trend which in recent years has fostered local pride and provided a backdrop for outdoor food markets. Since the virus shut-down, the 52-year-old artist has been unable to carry on with his commissions so instead he has turned his attention to the pandemic.
Next is a drawing by Banksy whose real name is Robin Gunningham (b.1973). He is a British Street Artist, political activist, and film director, active since the 1990’s. His satirical street art and political epigrams combine dark humour with graffiti executed in a distinctive stenciling technique.
His drawing (on the left), titled Game Changer (2010) depicts a young boy sitting on the floor playing with a nurse superhero toy. Batman and Spiderman action figure toys are in a basket next to the boy. The nurse figure, complete with a cape and a face mask, wears an apron featuring a red cross — the only spot of color in the black and white work.
A photograph of the drawing (on the right) was placed on display in a corridor at Southampton General Hospital in southern England. The artist left a note for Hospital workers, saying: “Thanks for all you’re doing. I hope this brightens the place up a bit, even if it’s only in black and white.”
The next is an oil painting COVID-19 Nurse (2020) by Jordan Kozma (b. 2004) a young artist done for her school project. The painting was inspired by a photograph printed in ‘People’s Daily’ newspaper in China. The photograph is of a Chinese nurse that took off her mask and protective goggles after a long shift in the hospital; her face shows marks of wearing her protective gear for a long shift.
Artist statement: “Portrait of a nurse working amidst the COVID-19 pandemic in a Wuhan hospital, China. The nurse is tired, overworked and sore from the many hours spent in the hospital treating patients. Her face is swollen from the mask and protective goggles she wore, drenched in sweat, her puffy eyes have seen the horrors of the inner-workings in a global pandemic. This piece connects how medical staff is pushing themselves every day working in dangerous conditions to help stop the spread the deadly effects of COVID-19. The other point I wanted to convey is the racism and xenophobia that has been displayed towards Chinese people due to the origin of the virus from Wuhan, China. Some people are using this pandemic as an excuse to be racist and hateful towards Chinese people. However, there are many Chinese nurses and essential workers out in the world helping us to fight this virus”.
Another mural Love in the days of Covid-19 is by Tvboy, which is the pseudonym of Salvatore Benintende an Italian street artist born in Palermo, Italy (1980). Tvboy used The Kiss (1791-1882) by Francesco Hayez (1791-1882) (on the right). The title of his mural Love in the days of Covid-19 is inspired by the title of a well-known novel written by the Colombian writer Gabriel García Márquez (1927-2014) ‘Love in the Time of Cholera’. (1982 Literature Nobel Prize). The couple kiss through a surgical mask and in their hands they hold a small bottle of a hand sanitizer.
Last but not least, another mural of Salvatore Benintende dedicated to the Coronavirus theme. The subject is the Mona Lisa (1503–1506) by Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519). The Mona Lisa is immortalized in the act of taking a selfie and obviously equipped with an inevitable mask. The work is called ‘Mobile World Virus’ (February 29, 2020) is the reference to the Mobile World Congress, world’s largest exhibition and conference for the mobile industry. The congress was scheduled to take place in the Barcelona in early February but was canceled over coronavirus concerns.