During 2020 GRAIN Projects awarded commissions and bursaries to 22 new bodies of work responding to Covid 19 as part of their national programme. Photographers, artists and writers created series, text and imagery responded to and documented unprecedented times.
Work by eight artists from this programme feature in the exhibition for FORMAT21. They show us the impact on the individual, family and communities, on our health and wellbeing, the inequalities of the pandemic, new ways of working and new closer connections with nature and each other.
Their work focuses on the private, the overlooked and the unfamiliar tropes and imagery of Covid. This is a significant record of life during Covid and the major changes to our way of living and working. Reflecting on and responding to these times as the familiar became unfamiliar the work is an important document of a year lived as never before.
Andrea G Artz: Pandemia to Pandemia. Artz’s commissioned work features sculptural forms made from her photographs, created as moving image works. The artist travelled on public transport throughout the pandemic to make photographs and interview people capturing their emotions and vulnerabilities.
Barnaby Kent: All People Are Like Grass. Kent’s work looks at the experience of Covid and the onset of lockdown coincided with the start of spring. Throughout the pandemic we witness the annual seasonal cycle and become aware of the essential need for access to nature.
Chris Hoare: Street Cleaners. Hoare photographed the undervalued workforce that helped keep our society going, choosing to photograph street cleaners who kept our environments, cities and streets clean during the pandemic.
Chris Neophytou: The Planting of a Fig Tree. Neophytou made work with the Greek Cypriot community in north Birmingham focusing on how the challenges of Covid-19 affected this community as people adapted to the challenges of practicing their faiths and at the distance felt between the UK and family and heritage in Cyprus.
Jaskirt Boora: Birmingham Lockdown Stories. Boora is a British Indian photographer, her work documents the community around her focusing on how people have come together to offer support and care for each other. Her motivation was to extend the feeling of good will and togetherness she experienced.
Jemima Yong: Field. Yong’s work was made in lockdown in London as she photographed the view from her bedroom window, witnessing how the same public space was being used and shared throughout 2020. Social distancing, face covering, exercise, team sports and family events feature in a typology of 76 black and white photographs exhibited as a performative work.
Lydia Goldblatt: Fugue. In Goldblatt’s series Fugue, intimacy and distance are key. The works meander, moving back and forth through the signs of routine, love and care that bear witness to family life. Chronological time, normally linear and clear, is suspended merging with emotional duration.
Shaista Chishty: Playing Their Part. Chishty looks at mainstream representations of people of colour during Covid, exploring the visual culture and tropes and the racialised press and media coverage, drawing comparisons with the propaganda of the British Empire and World War II.