Campbell River Arts Council executive director Ken Blackburn is pictured outside the Walter Morgan Shed in this file photo. Blackburn is also a talented artist and is starting off our series highlighting work that local creatives have been doing during the pandemic. Mike Davies – Campbell River Mirror File Photo

COVID and a time of isolation: an artist’s personal observation

Campbell River artist Ken Blackburn shares his thoughts on finding inspiration in tough times

Campbell River Arts Council Executive Director Ken Blackburn shares his thoughts on artists and the work they have been producing these last few months during the COVID-19 pandemic.

By Ken Blackburn

Isolation is no stranger to working artists. The global COVID-19 pandemic provided for many artists an unusual amount of time for studio practice.

As we emerge slowly and cautiously, it might be interesting to take a look at what artists were creating during the past few isolating months. It is also an opportune time for downtown businesses to begin creating a positive summer atmosphere within our community. The Downtown BIA has begun decorating business windows – the Patrons of the Arts (POTA) have a fabulous display for their Wearable Art Initiative and have begun a project for creative hats. The Arts Council has also created a display featuring the 2020 Banner Project.

RELATED: Two Campbell River artists take residency at Walter Morgan Studio

I would suggest that downtown windows might offer local artists an opportunity to show what has been created in the past months. Of interest is to survey what effects a global pandemic and isolation have had on the visual arts (alongside music, theatre, dance). Isolation brought many more people actively engaging online. News cycles became obsessive, with our US neighbours continually playing out a dangerous and tragic farce. Political tension is on the rise. Extreme polarities and divisions are widening. Families have had routines disrupted and have been distanced from extended family. Stress plays out across the age spectrum from teens to seniors.

Yet as was witnessed with the Banner Project, positive images of love, of hearts, of thankfulness to workers, of play and colour, all emerged from what could have been depicted as a dark time. But not so.

RELATED: Mirror journalist contributes banner to community art initiative

I have personally taken the initiative to work with Impressions Arts Supplies on Shoppers Row and have placed recent paintings in their window. They will be on display until early August.

In my own case, I returned again to landscapes, finding within them an energizing disinterest in my own vulnerabilities. I rediscovered the sky. The sky is the source of all great mythologies. It is the birthplace of story and a spark for the imagination. The earth, sea and sky are about change, but it is through the sky that emerges my memento mori. It is what grounds me to my mortality and the temporal nature of everything.

The artist James McNeill Whistler said that “Nature is usually wrong.” To study the sky, as also with the land and the sea, is to note the perfection of errors. As a testimonial to uncertainty, the land “scape”, while revealing much within its framing, provides reassurance if only through its ambivalence toward the viewer.

I have been watching these past few months. Not comforted, but inspired.

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A landscape local artist Ken Blackburn painted during the COVID-19 pandemic. Image courtesy of Ken Blackburn

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