Skip to main content

Chelsea MAFA in Lockdown: A Case of Something from Nothing

Holly English, MA Fine Art Chelsea College of Arts
Written by
Post-Grad Community
Published date
23 April 2020

Written by Olivia Mossuto  who studies on the MFA Fine Art course at Chelsea College of Arts and works part time as a Post-Grad Community Ambassador at UAL.

Olivia Mossuto

Nothing about self-isolation is ideal – for some, for many – the energy of family, friends, and neighbours are important to maintaining healthy lifestyles and a modicum of structure. Even as someone who practices quite a bit of introversion, I found the quiet of imposed isolation altogether different than normal isolation. The absence of motivation as a product of social distancing is not something so easily remedied. In my own head, I have been trying not to overcomplicate the reality of the situation and what it all means. I have a healthy body, a loving family, a passion for art, and more time to dedicate to learning. I decided to put this sentiment at the forefront of my mind and start working from there.

Since the beginning of lockdown, cooking and baking have been my saving grace. Most of my creations have not been for the sake of art, but out of necessity. I decided that since I have to make food regardless, I might as well experiment, craft, and measure to the best of my ability. As my motivation began to trickle back, I started by writing about art and making loose, quick, ink drawings – removing all the usual judgment I apply to my work. By exploring the energy of a person on paper, I have been using that to fuel more explorations into human nature, painting, and sustenance.

With the official re-animation of the Chelsea MA Fine Art course, I have realized how grateful I am to be part of such a formidable cohort of artists and friends. While cooking, writing, and inking is all I have managed to attempt thus far - the people surrounding me in the course are giving me much more to look forward to, along with the motivation I need to accomplish the more ambitious projects stockpiled in my head.

Continue reading to find out how the rest of the 2020 MAFA class are working their art-magic to make compelling work in the midst of a crisis.

Maria Vittoria Cavazzana

During this almost two months period I have been reconnecting with my inner self through some rituals and the re-appropriation of some techniques and a creative daily routine.

I have been writing, reading, mailing drawings and white sage to my friends, drawing and painting with watercolors and pencils, and also experimenting with new materials (actually, available materials since all shops were closed) while planning some works.

I am working and researching on some themes such as memory/loss, body textures and consistency, death and relics related to catholicism and personal memories.

Holly English

I was feeling lost. My brain wasn’t holding on to anything so reading was out of the question, and I really just wanted some manual labour to allow me to feel of some use. An ‘incase of emergency’ pdf had just been put together for our class requesting our full addresses, and as I scrolled down to find my name it struck me as such deeply personal information to have at my disposal. I decided to send everyone a letter. I found a box of plastic farmyard animals from the 70’s, all chewed and dirtied with old spittle, an archive of innocuous saliva from what we now refer to as the old ways. They seemed important, and I set about branding them with hand-painted truisms and stuffing them in envelopes along with other hopeful but perhaps inappropriately tactile gifts not limited to seeds, wool and loose pasta. They took a long time to arrive but as they trickled in I enjoyed silently watching the anonymous packages being discussed and dismembered in the group chat.

Since then I have spent most days at my allotment- it feels like control over my own destiny and something that appreciates my help. Thankfully I am feeling my brain cells multiplying again now and am making tentative progress in navigating a social-leaning practice in this brave new art world, but for now I will only share it with the badgers.

Mary Gibbon

During these isolating times, I’ve been spending most of my days in my garden. Building sculptures out of threads, making natural dyes, filming, and FaceTiming my friends so they can enjoy the scenery. My practice mainly focuses on material culture, so I have been researching traditional ways of working that relates to both my cultures as Thai and Welsh. While learning these processes I have been filming myself, as if I were making how-to tutorials. Furthermore, My current project has me going back to weaving and using leftover materials from past projects; such as threads that I have pulled out of fabric.

Alistair Mackinnon

Before the lockdown I was establishing a link between the physical and virtual space through haptic or proprioceptive interaction. With the sudden loss of space, I moved into the virtual space fully in order to take advantage of my familiarity with constructing virtual objects, and am working further into actualising dynamic environments and worlds accessible through the screen.

Breaking down the physical and interactive link into something achievable with space and material restrictions allows me to resume another theme coming up in my work, impossible artworks, things that could not manifest in reality and so could only exist virtually. A simple example would be a sculpture that broke the laws of physics- simulated physically, but constantly intersecting upon itself until it became an incoherent form indistinguishable from the place it occupied. Finally, I am returning to writing, as well as learning to code- making the worlds and environments in them more lively and interactive, rather than inanimate and desolate.

Alan Powdrill

I’ve got lists of unfinished things. I wrote a list on Tuesday, it’s now Monday and I don’t know where the list is, never mind what’s on it. I thought about exercise-I’ve never seen so much lycra in my life. I thought about all those projects I always thought about doing. I’m still thinking about them. Somebody somewhere has pressed the pause button and somehow it’s paused me too.

What used to be a quick thing is now a slow thing. I’ve never had so much free time but somehow it all gets filled up. Maybe that’s the point. We’re supposed to slow down and think, to stop and take note. To take a breath and relax.  Now it seems like one thing can fill a whole day and that all those things you wanted to watch were not worth watching really. I seem to care more about supplies and fresh vegetables and obviously toilet roll is never far from my mind. I plan missions now. A mission to go to the shop, a mission to make a meal, a mission to be outside for an hour.

I wonder what normal life used to be like and will it ever happen again. What is normal? I feel weird. I want to talk and see my friends and family more. I want to touch and hug them like never before. I think we will remember this time for a lot of reasons. A time when the human spirit came together but was kept apart. A time when we appreciated each other that much more but could not say so in person.

How will the history books see this crisis? A small blip, a tiny plague, an insignificant detour on the evolutionary road?  Or maybe it will be seen as time we realised it’s time to stop what we’re doing and change. Change our blind arrogance that the planet is here purely for our indulgence to do what the hell we like with it. Our tiny rock in the universe has existed for billions of years without us and will carry on existing when we’re gone. Maybe this is the time to stop and appreciate our rock more, our time on it and the others around us.

Dani Tagen

I don’t think my way of making has changed much since the lockdown. I have a studio in my flat and have always been through patches of being anti-social when I was in the mood for making.

But definitely what has changed is what I make and what I am interested in making.

Before the lockdown, I was planning to make some big works; quite physical and experimental ones... using paper, water and red iron oxide.

All of them seem irrelevant now and I’m struggling to find the will to go back to those ideas. Even though in my mind they are still quite interesting to pursue, I just don’t feel like working on them right now.

In the meantime, I’m interested in my immediate surroundings. I’ve been photographing the views through my window and my indoor space; I’ve been making small little paper maps that look quite shy; I’ve been documenting my Saturdays cyber-dancing session with friends and will definitely make a video out of them and have been making small sculptures out of chalk (calcium carbonate) - a material I’ve been interested for a while and which I can source the lamps in their natural form, in woods nearby.

Open Call: Student stories/shares during COVID-19 Outbreak

Post-Grad Stories

A thriving online magazine of our postgraduate student voices sharing thought-provoking experiences, practices and articles about what matters to them.

Want to write an article? Get in touch with the Post-Grad Community team