June 14, 2022 Off By Conor Walton

An exhibition curated by Conor Walton at Sol Art, Dublin

The Covid19 pandemic has affected all of us profoundly. It also represents a historical and cultural turning point that needs to be visually documented. It’s a topic that lots of people feel strongly about and (as this exhibition demonstrates) has generated a huge range of visual responses. People have suffered illness, lost loved ones, lost their jobs, had their work and family lives transformed. We have been forced to isolate, bought puppies, taken up baking, transformed our gardens. We have sung from balconies, embraced online schooling, virtual dating and zoom parties.

Covid has been like an X-ray of our society, showing up every hidden weakness and exacerbating almost every quietly festering problem. It has also highlighted hidden strengths, renewed communities and brought a heightened awareness of the local, of beauty formerly overlooked, of birdsong heard once again, of peace and solitude in crowded cities. Hugs, kisses and handshakes have become hugely significant. The social and political landscape has been altered massively, and many of these changes will be enduring. The artistic and cultural landscape has also changed, with venues closed and artists and curators forced to find new ways of reaching their public and earning a living. This exhibition might have have been ‘virtual’ due to the pandemic itself, but we are pleased to be hosting it in a real and thriving gallery and helping through our work to make sense of our fast-changing times.

The show is a collaboration between myself as curator, Martin and Jay Davis at Sol Art Gallery and Didi Menendez of the PoetsArtists collective. Didi, tireless in exploring new opportunities for figurative art, proposed the exhibition, and Martin and Jay, excited as ever to see and host new work, provided their amazing gallery space and a warm Irish welcome. It is this collaboration which has made possible such a truly international exhibition, with artists from across Europe and the Americas, most of whom have never exhibited in Ireland before. It is our great pleasure to encourage this cross-pollination of the artworld. We owe a debt of gratitude to the artists who answered the call for this show and created such amazing work, by turns humorous and poignant, zany and profound. Our lives are enriched by their consideration. I hope you will give them the time.

PANDEMIC curated by Conor Walton opens at Sol Art in Dublin on Friday 17th of June and runs until July 4th.

‘The Pandemic’ by Mary Jo Matsumoto

Here’s what the PANDEMIC artists said about their work.

‘Family Zoom Reunion’ by Christy Stallop

Christy Stallop
“‘Zoom Family Reunion’ – My piece started from of a zoom call that went wrong. The CEO of a company accidently used a potato filter and couldn’t figure out how to turn it off. It made national news. During a very stressful time, that error made me laugh for a full day. I painted the zoom image first with a potato, but realized how important zoom was for loved ones. The technology that we have kept us safe and kept us connected and that is what Zoom Family Reunion is about.”

‘Kitchen Alchemy’ by Stephanie Spay

Stephanie Spay
“Inspired by time spent in the kitchen during the height of the CovidPandemic. In my lifetime, moments of necessity have always brought on an inventive and creative spirit. Times of tragedy have shifted my perceptions and opened up new perspectives on ordinary life. Here, one squeeze of lemon has brightened the flavor of an ordinary meal.”

‘Youth II’ by Elena Degenhardt

Elena Degenhardt
“This portrait of my son is my latest work from the ‘Pandemic kids’-series and shows him in one of those “uncensored” moments. In Germany, children have been the most affected group. They were the first to be placed under strictest restrictions and the last to come out of them. Through home and online schooling, they experienced lack of personal contact with their peers more than other groups. Compulsory wearing of masks in schools and covid testing three times a week are still in place. The pandemic has placed the strong feeling of responsibility on children. As a mother of two, I have witnessed dramatic behavioural changes in the course of the pandemic which prompted the start of this project. I began doing life studies and sketches capturing my children in various moods, experiencing angst, sadness, boredom, lost sense of belonging, resignation, etc. but also finding hope and solace in things they might have not been interested before the pandemic.”

‘Self Isolation in the Manner of an Ex Voto with Music by Bob Dylan’ by Carlos Fentanes

Carlos Fentanes
“The focal point of this composition is a woman laid on bed checking her smartphone. I wanted to reflect the quietness of being isolated. One of the things that brought me this pandemic is self-reflection through the process of self-isolation. Even isolated, technology brought us together, I made friends all over the world, my communication with my family far away was stronger than before but also made us addicted to our own devices. That’s why the text from Bob Dylan’s Mr. Tambourine Man: There’s a lot of that had been written about this song, one of the theses is that Mr. Tambourine Man is a Drug Dealer and playing a song is other way of give me the drugs I need. In this case Mr. Tambourine Man is our smart phone: Hey Mr. Tambourine Man Play a song for me, I’m not sleepy and there’s no place I’m going to: what a wonderful way of describing what was happened to me during the pandemic, even if it was written more than 50 years ago.”

‘Nevermore’ by Sarah Means

Sarah Means
“’Nevermore,’ spoke this youth one day, in response to the daily barrage of
Covid numbers. The media, to him, embodied fear, death, and sickness.
Poe-like, the raven communicates the macabre—the illness, the fear, and
the strange need we felt to watch the numbers tick up. The mask is
awkwardly perched on the gangly pre-adolescent boy. The yellow shirt
stands out in opposition, dirty like a child’s hope refusing to diminish in the
face of hardship. In play clothes and dirty bare feet, our children stood up
in the face of pandemic lockdowns and media numbers, hoping nevermore
but nonetheless, hoping.”

‘Sunset Strip’ by Ellen Starr Lyon

Ellen Starr Lyon
“During this time of constant change and fear of the unknown, I find myself looking more and more inward to make sense of the world. In the past two years I have created many self-portraits combining my exploration of natural light effects while also depicting complex emotions. Sunset Strip was painted during the second year of the pandemic and is a slice of pandemic life: sitting in a parking lot crying on a grey evening when suddenly the clouds part and for a few minutes the most beautiful sunset surprises you. The sentiment in both: a mix of anxiety and hope continues to hold true through two years of our new normal and through a tumultuous political climate. Working on these paintings has focused me on deep work while also working full-time outside the home and parenting children through an ongoing global crisis.”

‘Within’ by Lali Garcia Almeyda

Lali Garcia Almeyda
“‘Within’ is the recreation of an interior space. It is the portrait of the many times that I had to encapsulate myself in my childhood. The struggle of soul to stay crystalline amid a gray and dusty mass. Existence is confusing, it can be as beautiful as the conception of a new life, and as miserable as the hunger that you pass by, at the corner of the traffic light. It is that very life, that you elevate to the highest levels of worship, which you later condemn to utter defeat. Thousands of ways to spoil us, even with so much love involved. It is the human condition, the chronicle of an announced death. It is what it is. Who we are now, part of the things that surrounded us and what we adopt as our own, among garbage dumps of human decadence and some lucid moments of compassion and nobility. I think we never had a chance to really choose. It has little to do with our will, although it has merit to believe it, insist, believe, and have faith. I look at myself and wonder about the stench that comes out of me, towards my children. About the fears, frustrations and guilt that I am already sharing with them simply by being me. I can only pretend for the best, strive for the best, hope for the best. Pray for the best. The pandemic puts in front of our eyes, the decisive influences that mark the path of the new generations.”

‘The Arrival’ by Laurence O’Toole

Laurence O’Toole
“I found myself out-manoeuvred in Italy when the whole country was locked down in March. I had driven down to the bottom of the heel in December to spend the winter working on new pieces for a show I was planning to have. It was a small old hilltop town called Cisternino in Puglia. Then Italy made the unprecedented decision to lockdown the whole country as I narrowly escaped over the border to France and eventually made the drive home to Ireland .
I thought long and hard about what to use as an analogy of this virus, I then spent a long time thinking about how I am affected and how I see this in the long term for all of us, for modern society, for families, for the workforce, for students. I had to break this into a body of three works, an observational play, in three parts. Three separate and different situations for this evolving issue:
The arrival of the virus
The world in isolation
The loss of many lives, the vaccine and the hindsight, looking back on all of this.
Many years ago I was travelling through Namibia, Africa and while there, I came across an old dusty antiques store in a small town called Swakopmund. There was an old tribal mask buried there, beneath all kinds of marvels, the owner told me it was a mask to ward off the spirits of smallpox, which the German colonists had brought with them in the 1850s. It had hung on my wall in the studio for 15 years. It seemed to me to be my focal point to explore and illustrate this concept. On hearing constantly about vaccines and snake oils, nonsense and misinformation, I was trying to get a feel for its necessity in this trilogy. There had been a box of old medicine bottles a friend had passed on to me many years ago and one that I wanted to use was Tincture of Quinine with ammonia. It was labelled from a chemist on Mary Street, Dublin but I could not give you the year but looks to be the beginning of the 20th century. In researching what it was I was surprised to find that it was a tonic for the common cold or influenza. dating back to the late 1700s and was widely used. I found this to be very serendipitous and along with the old Dublin weighing scales I had in my kitchen, I was building a narrative.”

‘Playin’ Through the Blues’ by Terry Strickland

Terry Strickland
“‘Playin’ Through the Blues’ The year is 2020, or MMXX as Monkey prefers. The world is on fire with COVID 19, and Monkey is in his pajamas. He plays his instrument in a blue haze. His art is his passion and his lifeline. He scratches the days off as they blur one into the other, tracking his place in time, knowing that this too shall pass.”

‘Glowing in the Dark’ by Claudia Kaak

Claudia Kaak
“The girl’s head faces forward, turned slightly to the left. The face is brightly lit. It looks almost golden. Although the girl looks directly at the viewer, she almost seems to see through him. The transported mood is unclear, subtle. A certain seriousness, sobriety, not natural for a child, is broken by the light reflections in the eyes, which are almost reminiscent of a crescent moon. The portrait seems to emerge from the darkness. The clothes are black. This reinforces a melancholy impression, especially in a child. The girl is the painter’s daughter. The title refers to the emotional world of the painter. Her daughter is a point of light in her life, which is strongly marked by darkness. The title ‘Glowing in the Dark’ symbolizes a more personal relationship with the painter and a deeper feeling for the painter herself.”

‘Backlit’ by Patrice Robinson

Patrice Robinson
“The three little oil paintings on metrocard are based off photos I took of people on the streets of NYC in November 2020. I wanted to capture such an incredibly strange and scary time as it was happening. I wanted the time and place to be recorded on MetroCards because these objects are symbolic and culturally significant to NYC. I wanted the mask to be centered as a visual representation of the pandemic.”

‘Spring Awakening the Poetry of the Needle’ by John Hyland

John Hyland
“’Spring Awakening: The Poetry of the Needle’ serves as a reflective metaphor for the phasing in of the vaccine for the general population starting in late 2020 and early 2021. A highly contentious topic, the coronavirus vaccination is viewed with deep gratitude by some, with utter disdain by others. Having experienced the deaths of too many people from Covid-19 before the jab was available, I count myself among those who are thankful for its arrival on the scene. The painting — a closeup of lovely burgundy-and-chartreuse-colored day lilies in my terrace garden in midtown Manhattan, with the glistening Chrysler Building in the background — uses the needle-like silhouette of that gem of a skyscraper to represent a vaccination syringe that suddenly takes its place on the city skyline. The thriving flowers, clear blue sky and springlike colors lend the hypodermic needle — an object normally thought of as cold and something to be dreaded— with a life-affirming power of its own.”


Miriam Molina
“In these specific portrait series, I explore pandemics seen from children´s point of view. It was March 2020, and the breaking news showed there were not enough proper masks for Mexican population. Panic and anxiety were all over, there was lockdown. I photographed my children wearing a chromed-polished paper made masks. And asked them how they felt. They felt weird, they felt suffocated, and sad. The use of this material makes reference to Jeff Koons’ dog sculptures. These questions the functional part of art, art market and the recycling of materials. In times of chaos, and in countries like mine, art stays on last place.”

‘Keeping Warm (Man Setting Himself on Fire)’ by Carl Dobsky

Carl Dobsky
“Down on Hollywood Boulevard, after the glitz and glamour fades, we find a dingy street filled with trash and coated in grime. What was once a place for Movie Royalty is now the stomping grounds for endless tourists engaged in their plastic pursuits and the hordes of unhoused people with nowhere to sleep but on the street. In this setting we find a homeless man whose mind has long since left him. The blanket he has wrapped around him is not enough to stave off the cold and so, in a moment of “clarity”, he has found a solution. He will use his socks as fuel for a fire to keep warm.
“One of the things that has left a great impression on me in the last years of political turmoil, as well as the response to the Covid pandemic, is the utter insanity of it all. Even when confronted with evidence to the contrary, most people will double down on their beliefs even if they bring harm to themselves. This doubling down is a kind of lunacy. But I fear that what we are seeing is just the tip of the iceberg. That beneath the surface of blind patriotism, cries for freedom, and the snobbish moral pretension that is so prevalent in “Hollywood”, lurks something dark that is just beginning to bubble up at the surface.
I also thought about the Buddhist monks who would light themselves on fire to protest war and injustice. This scene is in someway the inverse of that. An individual, out of a crazed obsession and lacking any real understanding, immolating himself out of less than noble motives.”

Tickets for the opening are available here

The exhibition catalogue can be viewed and purchased here

PANDEMIC artists: (Cover Art)
Taylor Tynes

Thanks to @poetsartists for proposing the exhibition!