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Artists in times of a pandemic

The year 2020 is coming to an end, the Holidays are just around the corner and Singulart would like to take the opportunity to look back on the eventful year of 2020. A year that will go down in history, marked by a global pandemic that has had a lasting impact on all of our lives. Not only has it forced us to reshape our plans, but it has certainly put our image of modern man in a digitalized, technologically savvy world into a new perspective.

During the first lockdown here in France, we looked back at the history of mankind where pandemics in the form of the plague or Spanish flu had a lasting effect on the population. Works of art dealing with this topic are an impressive testimony of an era and artistic interpretation for posterity. Much has happened since the first lockdown in April. This year, we had to learn to slow down, experience a restriction of our freedom of movement, keep our distance from our friends and relatives, and deal with the economic and financial consequences. We were all affected, but some sectors, such as the catering and hotel industry and of course the arts and culture sector, have been particularly hard hit. This year, artists, gallery owners, and exhibition organizers have learned to speak in the subjunctive. Every international exhibition or art fair like Art Basel, the FIAC in Paris, or the Venice Biennale has been postponed or canceled. How much is art determined by its environment? If we believe Marcel Duchamp, then the context is decisive. If the environment suddenly disappears – where does art then exist? Without the space of the museum or gallery, the significance of the digital exhibition space becomes more and more important and shows that these spaces need to shift online. We live in a secularized society, where citizens find comfort not only in the synagogue, church or mosque but also in cultural institutions, including theatres, concert halls, museums or galleries. That’s why we at Singulart are delighted to successfully continue to empower artists in these difficult times, to make their art seen, despite the physical barriers that art is going through at the moment. This year has proven that the online art market is more important and stronger than ever in order to exhibit and deliver art to collectors all around the globe. Art is not only a pleasant diversion and distraction, it is a ray of hope in lockdown. It makes domestic isolation more bearable for many people. Art is indispensable for dealing with existential questions of human existence, especially in times when social foundations prove to be fragile. Art and culture have been crucial to helping our democracy navigate through difficult times in the recent past. 

We took a moment to talk with the artists Carlos Blanco Artero, Susana and Carola Thiele about this drastic year and are pleased to gain insight through their thoughts, feelings and experiences.

Carlos Blanco Artero

My situation as an artist has hardly changed, my daily routine is exactly the same. We could say that the artist lives in constant confinement.”

Carlos Blanco Artero

Carlos Blanco Artero is an internationally successful Spanish artist from Madrid. His art has been shown in galleries and museums in Paris, New York, Singapore and more. His painting style has transformed through the years from figurative, to more expressive, gestural painting, where the figurative elements are blurred. Carlos shared with us his experience of how the pandemic changed all of his plans unexpectedly. The beginning of the pandemic caused him to be stuck in Berlin for 3 months because all flights to Madrid were canceled. His plans to live in the Dominican Republic for six months were also no longer feasible. Fortunately, his solo exhibition, which was planned for 2020, was moved to 2021 without any issues. However, many of his group exhibitions were canceled.

When asked whether the pandemic has influenced his style, Carlos has a clear message: “If you really take an artistic path, even such a situation cannot change or influence your style. The relationship between the artist and his painting is much more intimate and immanent than any crisis.”

Carlos further explains that he doesn’t like to express the pandemic artistically in an obvious way. Nevertheless, he has also taken up the theme artistically and composed a work titled PAPER-EATER  that remains true to his style. Without any background knowledge, one might think it is a humorous-ironic work, but Carlos explains that he has concentrated on showing a different perspective. He was inspired by the book Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes, a social contract theory written during the English Civil War (1642–1651). Hobbes’ work is about more than a pandemic, it is about man himself and his three driving forces, which are characterized by desire, fear and reason. In particular, the sentence “Man is a wolf to man”, originally from Plautus, means a lot to Carlos because it symbolizes the selfishness of helping oneself before helping others. He painted a kind of “paper-eating Leviathan” in order to visualize and adapt his findings to the current situation, which coincides with what Hobbes presents as psychological selfishness that is natural and cannot be willingly overcome.

Susana Aldanondo

“I think solace is necessary for any breakthrough ideas and for artistic inspiration. I have experienced periods of solitude in the past, and although this period of isolation was imposed on all of us, in the artistic sense I have embraced it as an opportunity to rethink, reconsider & reconnect with my inner self and with my work. I think I thrive as an artist when I am given the privilege of solitude.”

Those Lonely Days, 2020
Susana Aldanondo

Susana Aldanondo is an internationally exhibiting artist from the United States. She lives and works in New York and has become known for her expressive abstract style and for painting on the Brooklyn Bridge even when it rains. Her work is inspired by the life stories of people and the synchronicity of life itself, by music and rhythm, by the vibrant culture of New York City and the identity that she carries within her. We talked with Susana about her reflections of the year 2020 and what helped her through difficult times. She shared with us how important her artist residency in Iceland at the beginning of the year was and how those memories often helped her through times of solitude. Part of what the artists explored during their residency was the concept of “time”.  Time in connection with difficulties and resilience, empathy and compassion.  During the times of isolation and uncertainty, Susana revisited the memories of her time in Iceland and found joy in that. “In retrospect, it really seemed like I was being given a ‘heads up’ in regards to the idea of time, patience, empathy, and resilience,” adds Susana. Part of her inspiration and work routine is to paint outdoors, especially on the Brooklyn Bridge. It’s a way for Susana to challenge herself and get inspired at one of her favorite places in New York City. Unfortunately, since the pandemic, this has not been possible for her. Just like one of her major projects that were impossible to accomplish because of the risks of the pandemic, Susana shares with us.

When asked whether the pandemic has influenced or challenges her artistic expression, Susana told us that this is not the case. However, the pandemic has challenged her to rethink, improve and to express new feelings and ideas. “A global crisis like we are facing lets you revisit old feelings, old ideas and long-forgotten memories that inspire you. There is strength found in memories, and in realizing we are being challenged to create memories of hope for the future, even as we faced isolation and uncertainty because of the pandemic. I usually thrive in my work when challenged – some of my best work was created during difficult times in my life. I’ve even challenged myself to paint in the rain in the past, as a way to test my resilience. I remember thinking to myself ‘just keep painting, don’t stop painting, no matter what, just paint.’  The difficulties of the pandemic reinforced that feeling within me.”

Susana created several works of art this year that are currently being exhibited on Singulart. When asked which painting reflects the best this year for Susana, she names Those Lonely Days and adds: “I titled it after the feeling of loneliness most people were experiencing and with the hope that we can find something positive in the experience, as we pull through the feeling of loneliness, we can grow stronger from it. The painting points to that resilience and to the fact that we can revisit memories. While we experience loneliness, we can also make memories to help us pull through those lonely days.”

Carola Thiele

“In essence, my routine hasn’t changed, only the mood of the work. My works are mostly created unconsciously. There was a time in spring when I ‘smeared’ anger paintings.”

Der einsame Clown, 2020
Carola E. Thiele

The German Carola Thiele exhibited her art internationally from Japan to England and the United States. Her oeuvre ranges from surrealist landscape paintings to expansive digital works. Her aim is to strive for freedom and convey the great wholeness of our common human existence in her work of art. The situation we have experienced this year strongly interferes with our freedom and has caused at first panic and then a feeling of incapacitation, the artist shares with us. Now she feels transported back to the GDR. She was born in the middle of the deepest winter of 1966 in Zossen, on the edge of the Berlin Wall and the strongest experience that influenced her was waking up in a dictatorship, realizing that the GDR was taking away the freedom of her thoughts and development. Fortunately, these times are over and our thoughts are free for any development. It is not surprising, however, that the Corona Virus measures evoke memories of the time when Carola was deprived of her freedom. She has the first personal limitations well in mind. “My first cancellation was an exhibition in Barcelona and I realized that from now on it would be difficult to present my works physically anywhere. Fortunately, two exhibitions could take place in late summer in Zurich and London.” In the same breath, Carola also emphasizes how important the presentation on the online art market was and is for her in these times. “I have expanded my presentation on the online market. This has not been a problem for me, as I have been using the online market for a very long time. Since 2019 I have been an artist with Singulart and I claim Singulart as a landmark for the online market.”

When we asked to what extent the pandemic has influenced her, challenged or changed her artistic expression, Carola told us that it has influenced and changed it but only in the short term. My spectrum of styles cannot be categorized anyway. My works are mostly created unconsciously. Even though there was a time in spring when I ‘smeared’ anger paintings. My creativity on the other hand has not been restricted at all. I think that it was rather more released. People’s fears are pulling at me and meanwhile I want to connect what is arguing. The divided society of lateral thinkers and supporters have one thing in common – fear. The lateral thinker before a dictatorship, economic ruin and incapacitation and the proponents are afraid for their fellow men and relatives. Meanwhile, I try not to cheer the divided opinions in our society. To have one opinion is a freedom that must not be suppressed and censored.”

This year Carola Thiele visualized different perspectives on the Corona Pandemic in her art. The Lonely Clown is a homage to all performing artists who were and still are enormously affected by the pandemic. The work Stay home 3 is an indictment of the incapacitating measures and the work The Shepherd is a satire on our new faith, a longing for guidance, Carola explains to us. All works are available in Singulart. 

It is clear that the individual experiences of our artists are similar, despite the different countries and continents on which they are located. One message remains universal: We should all look positively to the year 2021 and enjoy the beautiful things in life. Art is one of them; it unites and connects us in these uncertain times.

We would like to thank our artists, collectors and all the art lovers who have put their trust in us this year. We are already busy planning for the coming year and look forward to sharing the new year with you. We wish you a Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year 2021.

Be inspired by our new collection The new normal, which brings together art from our talented Singulart artists.