Melusina Parkin opened her latest exhibition in Second Life Life on Thursday, January 14th at the Kondor Art Centre’s White Gallery.
Lockdown and Hope is a highly topical selection of art by Melu that takes as a part of its theme – as the name implies – something that remains on a lot of people’s minds as we roll on into 2021: the situation around the continuing threat of the SARS-CoV-2 virus / COVID-19, and the continuing grind, for so many of us, of being in a lockdown situation that brings limited opportunities to get out, interact with others or do the things we really want to do.
However, rather than focus just on the negative, Lockdown and Hope also looks to the future and the time beyond the shadow of the virus, when we can all resume largely “normal” lives with their attendant freedoms and activities as the various vaccines spread amongst populations, allowing us to, if not eradicate COVID-19 entirely, then at least bring it under control and diminish it’s threat.
On the surface, this is an exhibition of two halves: on the lower floor are 18 images that carry the title “Lockdown”, and very much focus on the impositions that have been placed on us as a result of the pandemic situation. Their dominant themes intertwine feelings loneliness, listlessness, boredom, the need for escape, and / or being cut off from the world. These are presented in Melu’s captivating style of focusing down on just a portion of a scene. It’s a technique I’ve long admired, simply because captured in this way, her images offer the opening lines of a story, leaving our minds to tell the rest based on the title of the exhibition and the point of focus in the image.
Take Lockdown (v) 16, as an example (seen in the foreground at the top of this piece). With its focus on the handle of a door, and the shadow on a distant wall cast by the light falling through a window, we’re given an image that clearly speaks to being shut-in. The door, so long a means of keeping others out so we can enjoy our own company, now a barrier to our ability to go out, the door handle caught in sunlight now a forbidden thing, the patterned shadow of an unseen window the calling of a world currently beyond our reach.
On the upper floor is a further set of 18 images that express the idea of Hope: that those freedoms we are temporarily without will return; that we will once again be able travel, to share, to appreciate nature, to enjoy a vacation on some remote shore and or enjoy the simple pleasures of walks along the coast or country roads. In contrast to those on the lower floor, these are offered as more expansive images – open spaces, broad skies, distant horizons – all of which are emblematic of freedom and the ability to roam where we will, and partake of all that life has to offer.
But there is more here as well; within many of the images on the lower floor offer not only representations of the isolation of lockdown, but also a glimmer of hope for the future. Again, to take Lockdown (v) 16. Whilst standing as a symbol of the need for us to stay isolated from those beyond our immediate bubble (if indeed, we have a bubble), it also offers hope: the very fact that sunlight is falling on the door handle suggests that the day will come when we can again open our doors to others and invite them in without fear, or pass through the door into the world beyond that is promised in the shadow falling on the wall beyond the door; indeed, the very fact that the door stands ajar suggests that time might actually be not that far away.
Elsewhere, Lockdown (v) 9 offers us a view of again being cut off from the things we would normally take for granted – cars parked outside the window with their promise of taking us anywhere we might desire, but for now beyond our reach. However, it also reminds us that despite all the impositions of lockdown, the cars are still there, waiting, and one day we’ll be free to travel wherever we would. Meanwhile,
This double focus can also be found in several of the images upstairs. Take Hope (v) 13 and Hope (v) 14 for example. Both offer use the promise of freedoms to be joyed – whilst the presence of the fences, open as one is and as relatively unobtrusive as the other might be in allowing us to see the sky, reminds us that the freedoms we’ll soon resume are not quite here yet, and restraint of action is still required.
From gowns cast across furniture out of possible frustration at being unable to wear them in public to the promise that nights out will yet return (Lockdown (v) 10) to a look towards a time when walks along sandy shores or country roads will again be ours to enjoy, but which is not yet upon us – hence the empty chair and bench Hope (v) 12 and Hope (v) 15); and with tales of separation and togetherness bound within the simple framing of a teapot, cups, decorative hearts and the placement of two chairs (Lockdown (v) 4). All 36 images within Lockdown and Hope have a richness of narrative, marking this as another extraordinary and engaging exhibition from Melusina Parkin.
- White Gallery, Kondor Art Centre (Waka, rated Moderate)