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Channelling emotions into artwork

Artists across the world have responded in a wide variety of ways to Covid and the impact of the lockdown. Of course, it would be quite a challenge for most to have continued as if nothing had changed. While some have responded to a changing world by experimenting with new media, others have stayed with their customary art forms to express their reactions.

Sudbury-based artist Cathy D’Arcy has responded to the pandemic with ‘Stick your tongue out to Covid’, a fabulous collection, for which she used her staple medium of ‘hand built’ pottery. That is, creating clay forms using hands and basic tools, rather than a potter’s wheel.

Having grown up in East Africa and Kuwait, Cathy’s work always references the styles and forms of art with which she was surrounded as a child. The influence of shapes, colours and patterns from those regions are immediately obvious.

Given the means of virus transmission, the name of her latest collection, ‘Stick your tongue out to Covid’, may seem contradictory. But actually, although they are confrontational, the works are not out to offend. Yes, they convey the artist’s anger and frustration with the pandemic and lockdown, but they also have simple, unaffected charm.

Emotional drive

Cathy started with a slab of clay – the equivalent of a painter’s blank canvas – and no idea what would come from it. She let her emotions - and skills learnt over decades of making - guide the process, with no clear idea of the outcome.

A triangle was cut from the clay, other shapes were the placed on the triangle and a face began to emerge, then a protruding tongue was added. As the form took shape and the protruding tongue emerged, Cathy became conscious that she was facing her fear of, and asserting her anger with, the pandemic. She was confronting coronavirus head on, tongue out in defiance.

One Warrior face turned into a series. While they gave outlet to Cathy’s intense feelings around the disease and lockdown, they are neither dark and threatening, nor fearful and threatened. They are bold and striking, certainly - but the tone is light, and the mocking is gentle. Cathy says levity started to emerge in the figures as she worked. The catharsis of the creative process meant that negative emotions were no longer the only guiding force.

Just as Shakespeare shows, there is room for comic relief – even in the darkest tragedies.

Once her Warriors had been hand built, Cathy painted black underglaze on to them. The choice of black and white reflects the bold theme and the contrasts of grief and hope. The 2-colour approach gives a timeless feel to the pieces, and (here we are unashamedly suggesting you might like to own one of these wonderful works of art!) means they are suited to a wide array of environments.

Experience the collection

We’re excited to be exhibiting the collection at the Gallery, not least at a time when we are not yet fully out of lockdown, and on a wider scale, are far from free of this disease that has been the scourge of the arts – and of so many lives.

The Gallery doors are back open on 17th April where you can visit the collection in person, or you can take a look at Cathy’s collection here

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