The Covid-19 pandemic – what else? But this time seen through an artist’s eyes

Covid-19’s march across the world and into our daily lives scares, astonishes and negatively impacts me like everyone. I can’t comment on the daily shape-shiftings of scientific, economic and political strategies, for I know nothing about any of them. But as a visual artist largely working from the right side of my brain, I am used to stepping back to see the bigger picture and my eyes are trained to blur out details and see things in terms of shapes, colours and gestures. A quick way to experience this shift away from the logical thought of our left brain is to squint your eyes and look through your eyelashes. Or take a painting or photo and turn it upside down. Both methods filter out what we ‘know’ enabling us to see familiar things differently. Objects of importance might fade. A shadow, a colour, a form might stand out.

When I look in this way at what is happening around us, I of course see the total upheaval and devastation for so many. But I can also see something that gives me glimmers of hope where before I had none. For within the language of tragedy and loss – of lives, jobs, holidays and everything we consider ‘normal’ – are calls to pay attention to areas of society we normally neglect. Maybe you too can see that there is a bigger, more subtle picture as well as a huge opportunity behind the obvious reasons we are universally being told to ‘stop’?

Not all the symbols I see fit of course, and some people will dismiss them as coincidental. But what if this pandemic is actually a natural and inevitable effect of what decades of human behaviour have caused? Covid-19 primarily attacks the lungs and airways, leaving people starved of oxygen. If trees are the lungs of our planet producing the vital oxygen we need to live, haven’t decades of excessive, shortsighted, polluting and disposable lifestyles had the same impact on the world as that of heavy smoking on a person? 

As in cases of disease in the microcosm of any individual’s life, a massive pause button has been pressed grinding the cogs of contemporary life to a halt and forcing us to rest, reflect on and reconsider our lifestyle choices. In the constant pursuit of economic ‘growth’, we have been travelling at high speed down a cul-de-sac. What we are experiencing now is the slamming on of brakes and screeching to a halt before we hit the wall. We knew it was there but we did not listen or act. We now have to do both.   

Suddenly priorities have shifted into reverse and our full attention is turned to the protection of the elderly, the vulnerable, those on zero-hour contracts, single-parent families, nurses and medical staff. Suddenly the ‘invisible’ refuse collectors, hospital cleaners, shelf stackers and ambulance drivers become the vital heroes that will keep the last cogs of a groaning infrastructure moving. Suddenly the idea of locking people into tiny cells for up to 23 hours appears unacceptably inhumane and reducing the overcrowding of prisons becomes an obvious first step. 

Forced self-isolation will give many people a taste of the extreme solitude many people face each day, from those bereaved, unemployed or sick to artists and writers. It highlights the danger of ‘home’ for children of violent parents or domestically abused women. And as food shelves are stripped by panicked stock-piling, one has to think of those who can only afford to live from one day to the next and will be faced with empty shelves. 

While the language of the media is understandably dramatic and war references temptingly apposite, they are not necessarily helpful. We are not at war with anyone. Like war, this situation will probably bring out the best and worst ends of the spectrum of human nature. Unlike war, and yet like nothing we have faced previously, we are all in this together. All united in our shared desire to continue being able to breathe. 

Seeing the world’s beautiful cities and bays emptied of tourists, traffic and cruise ships, the skies emptied of planes is eerie (and economically catastrophic for many), but all this could inspire us to change our habits from endless consumption and movement to a greater appreciation of stillness, each other and simply being alive. So, while we are being collectively advised and forced to change our habits and embrace new priorities, why don’t we collectively work on changing them for good… in both senses of the word?

Keep well and safe, everybody. Spring is coming regardless.

Oh yes, and some really good news, which was going to be the theme of this month’s blog… I have signed a contract with Penguin Transworld to publish my book! I have a considerable amount of work still to do on it but will keep you posted.

6 thoughts on “The Covid-19 pandemic – what else? But this time seen through an artist’s eyes

  1. Your latest blog on the Coronavirus totally reinforces my own attitude to the problem – a change in all our lives is essential and positive … as is your first photo with the rainbow being the symbol of hope! Thank you for your communication – ich stosse mit Dir an mit meinem Glas Sekt, Deine self-isolated Eveline

  2. Thank you, Angela, for an enjoyable, positive, hopeful and interesting blog. I really love your breathing metaphor. And big congratulations on your book deal! Best wishes and stay safe, Helen

    On Wed, 18 Mar 2020 at 12:39, angela findlay blog wrote:

    > angela findlay posted: ” Covid-19’s march across the world and into our > daily lives scares, astonishes and negatively impacts me like everyone. I > can’t comment on the daily shape-shiftings of scientific, economic and > political strategies, for I know nothing about any of them. Bu” >

  3. Thanks Angela. I so hope that many will read, understand and act on this urgent message to us all to reflect and change. We must. I certainly am! And I have already seen so many positive and heartfelt actions, big and small coming out of this crisis. There is definitely hope!

  4. Thanks for this Angela. Heartening and helpful. And giving some shape to what I also intuit. ANd congratulations and good luck with your book. What’s it about I wonder… PS We’re painitng our living room and I’m looking forward to seeing our beautiful beach/sea scape painting by you against a new background 🙂

  5. Thank you, Angela. As you say, it’s not often we suddenly face an imposed period of rest and reflection like this. My diary has suddenly emptied itself of all commitments, even routine ones, for weeks ahead, and in place of the busy-ness, there’s time to notice all sorts of encouragement. We see in our community, as elsewhere, all sorts of little kindnesses taking place, people looking out for each other, especially the old and shut-in, in a new and special way. Here, youngsters are offering to run errands for the elderly; a local builder is offering to do essential jobs for free for people whose earnings have suddenly dropped. People are keeping in touch more. We can also take time to watch the lambs in the fields behind our house; and, finally, I have time to nail that Rachmaninov prelude! And spring officially begins tomorrow!
    Very many congratulations on your book contract – with a top publisher, too! I’ll certainly be buying a few signed first editions!

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