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  • Jessica Mackney

Art In Lockdown

Updated: Nov 11, 2020

a reflection on the value of art in lockdown, especially for those of us who were isolating alone

Get up, brush teeth, eat breakfast, open laptop, eat lunch, watch the news report on the daily death count, open laptop, eat dinner, brush teeth, bed.

Repeat, feeling emptier each time.

This was the regular pattern of lockdown life. The outside world was barred and suddenly the steps from the bedroom to the living room became my morning commute. My jeans were replaced by pyjamas and sweatpants. Office conversations with my colleagues were replaced by anxiety, frustration, and loneliness.

I knew that I was privileged to have a space in which to isolate safely, but as the restrictions tightened and the daily death count became unavoidable, my mental wellbeing took a hit.

Now, infection rates are increasing once again and so is the threat of a second lockdown. We have learned from the initial peak the importance of art for the sake of the public’s wellbeing.

In a world with less interaction art has helped to keep us together.

Picture of rainbows are still on the windows of houses in my neighbourhood, a reminder of people's desire to offer wordless gestures of hope, encouragement and support. If we've learned anything from the first wave, it's that community, solidarity, and creativity are vital for our mental wellbeing as a whole.

As the first lockdown continued, I began to rely heavily on the arts in an attempt to channel my troubled emotions. Art gave me something to hold on to. Suddenly, facing a world without galleries, museums, or theatre, the value of the arts became clearer.

Museums and galleries started showcasing more of their collections online. Exhibitions went virtual. Grayson Perry started a TV show about art created during lockdown. The National Theatre started their At Home broadcasts online every Thursday. And that's not even all of it.

Art forms part of the human consciousness. It helps us to become observers of our emotions rather than slaves. Simply getting out one's colouring pencils or using a near-empty biro to scribble one's feelings removes us from the world's harsh realities.

Creativity can help us to express the unspeakable and delegate a safe place for the negative thoughts in our mind. Put simply, it is a fundamental building block of our mental wellbeing. Picasso's The Dream provides a sense of brief yet timeless beauty in a period of ugliness. The woman sits in her chair somewhere between reality and dreams. Having set aside the world's sorrows, she is calm, and shows us that we can be too.

La Rêve (The Dream), Pablo Picasso, 1932, 130cm x 97cm,

oil on canvas. Private Collection.

At the peak of the pandemic the streets of London fell quiet. My daily walks around the block became gloomier, with less and less people walking the streets. Anyone who I did see looked down at the ground beyond their face mask as we steered away from each other in fear of the invisible.

Somehow, art pushed through the gloom.

I began to see paintings of rainbows in household windows. Some the size of a window pane, others as small as a postcard. Nonetheless, all carried the same weight of positivity powered by the promise of hope.

Artist-led studio, 'The People's Picture', have created an interactive online mosaic of pictures and portraits submitted to the organisation during the pandemic, compiling a total of 13,000 photos. Zoomed out, the mosaic forms a giant rainbow. A giant reminder of the power of creativity.

A flash of colour stuck to a window reminds us that we're not alone.

I have never been more grateful for the posters, postcards, and prints hanging on the walls of my one bedroom flat than during the peak of the Covid-19 crisis. I have taken them with me through every move like a child carries their favourite teddy bear. Some have become worn at the edges, or creased from excessive folding. Others have multiple holes in the corners from various pin boards. But all have kept me company as the world I once knew changed.

Get up, brush teeth, eat breakfast, open laptop, look at an online exhibition, eat lunch, watch an episode of Grayson Perry's lockdown Art Club, open laptop, eat dinner, sketch your feelings, brush teeth, bed.

Repeat, feeling more at peace.


About the author: Jessica Mackney works at the Tate, and runs a blog that focuses on art and art history that you can find here. Most recently Jessica has been interested in researching how art has helped individuals during lockdown and how the art world has been forced to adapt due to ongoing restrictions.  If you have some work you would like featured on the site, drop us an email at If you enjoy reading our content, you can support us by: signing up to our emailing list and following us on Instagram , becoming a Patreon for just £1 a month, or simply by sharing your favourite stories

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