Clare Burnett PRSS

By Clare Burnett, PRSS

Five weeks in and some days are better than others. I hope you are all managing ok, especially those of you who are shielding, home schooling, on your own or just finding it difficult.

The night the lockdown was announced I realised I wouldn’t be able to use my studio which is in a communal block, and went there, at midnight, on a sort of ‘Supermarket Sweep’. Looking at what I collected now it’s a bit random - a lot of different glues, a soldering iron, some plastic bowls, an angle grinder…. but no materials to use them with.

We have a garden, thank goodness, and it ends in a triangle, filled with shed. I spent the first fortnight dividing my time between listening to the news, clearing out the shed and discussing the Society with Caroline, our Director, and the Trustees to make sure we were taking the right steps. Neighbours lent me plastic boxes so I can keep things outside and I did a rare bit of gardening which mainly involved removing ugly shrubs so I had some space.

I know some of you work very successfully from home which I really admire. I get incredibly distracted and have never had much luck with it, so this is a bit of a challenge for me. I have dealt with it by imagining I was on a ‘home residency’. Over the last six months I have had an amazing time, working on a commission in China and on a residency in Studio Block M74 in Mexico City, so this is a bit of a contrast. In Mexico I scavenged from the market and used the studio as a laboratory to play with and transform what I collected. I am using a similar approach now – trying to look again at what is in the house, using materials from the recycling bin and the children’s art cupboard, and experimenting in the studio. I’ve also set up a WhatsApp group for anyone making art in the street and it’s been a delight – everything from dinosaurs to professional painting from 3 – 80 year olds. I’d strongly recommend it if you’re able to do anything similar.

In my shed I’m exploring the empty spaces within the containers in the house, casting them in paper pulp and looking at what we hold and use at home in a new way. I’m enjoying ripping up old paper and shredding bank statements – not so much trying to get the paper pulp to dry – any suggestions welcome as it seems to be taking days. In both China and Mexico, I was focussed on yellow and how it relates to the spaces around it. It seems a much harder colour to use here – colder and sharper against the light, but I still haven’t finished with it so I’ll see where that goes.

CB 23 April 2020