Although I think that digital exhibitions are extremely important during a pandemic as well as for the importance to our environmental responsibilities, I sympathize with what we have to lose rather than gain from this digital step. I personally feel the lonely side of being an artist, months on end working in a studio alone in your own head creating a collection of works. An exhibition is often the only opportunity and interaction artists have on engaging their work with an audience, to take this away from them may impact mental health. I personally have felt the impact of limited social engagement this year, I have completed two online exhibitions felt its negatives impacts more so than positives.
Do in person exhibitions create problems regarding environmental issues? Of course, but going fully digital is not the answer. I think we need to look at the bigger picture here and don’t jump straight into “make Artworks accessible to all online”. I think that attitude and approach may do more harm than good. There is so much we can do to encourage a “greener” exhibition. Recycled packaging, encouraging people to walk or cycle to the show etc. These are small steps which can have a great impact on our environment for the better. We should never lose sight of the importance of human interaction.
Art encourages conversation, exhibition spaces enable this. My practice and works are a visual narrative which highlight our natural ability to tell a tale. The importance of storytelling in our Irish culture and heritage has gifted many of us with a poetic tongue. Storytelling whether it be in a pub, through a book or through imagery should be cherished. It’s part of our human DNA to pass on our story whether we are aware of this or not, and we cannot lose sight of this. Art is a conversation enabler; I’ve never been to an art exhibition or opening and heard silence. The sound of glasses clinking, and excited chatter lends itself to the visual conversations our paintings hold. If you’ve ever stood on the side-lines of an exhibition and listened in to some of the conversations of the room, you would know exactly what I mean. Artworks can have a very emotional impact on us, whether they bring us pain or joy, they have the ability to be very personal to the artist and audience together. Socially engaged artworks oftentimes touch on the subject of trauma and political issues in a playful or painful manner, enabling the audience to strike up a conversation. Who better to talk to about the works than the person standing next you sharing the experience in the same moment?
When I was young at school much to my frustration, I was unable to visit exhibitions due to living in the countryside. Accessibility was restricted so a lot of my research in art history was through books and magazines, social media was not a thing then. Would I have benefited from social media and digital exhibitions, probably. However; many images I looked at online or in a book only made me want to see the works in person more, I yearned to a part of the room which held these creations. I’ve had social media for a while now and I reap the benefits of it, however when I see collection of works I love, I quickly scroll onto the next thing. Two glasses of wine at an exhibition and lots conversations happening around me…Totally different ball game. I’ve visited shows and walked past the same painting three/four times in a small room and each time walking past I’ve fallen in love with another part of a painting that I did not notice before. The impact an artwork can have on us in person is unobtainable through a screen. Digitally, today anyone can be an artist which is great in some senses but not all. The art industry unfortunately like many is highly competitive, the fast paced environment of digital and social media has heightened this competitiveness in my opinion. When you view works digitally, you scroll, and you scroll and you view a reel of how the work was made it loses it integrity for me. I too make my work accessible and digital for my viewers, but the viewer cannot appreciate the time it has taken to not only make the work, but the preparations behind the canvas. The years of thinking, the trials and errors etc. Art takes time, sometimes a very long time, the digital world can be a little too fast, you can scroll past an artwork very quickly without taking any notice. When you’re there in person, it speaks much louder. Viewing a painting in person for example, you can see each brush stroke, you can see where the brush began and finished on the fibres of the cloth. There is a heightened apperception of the workmanship Infront of you.
While studying art I fell in love with Louise bourgeois’ work. Many people know her “Maman” piece of a huge spider form which you can walk under. I seen this piece in magazines, books and online for years appreciating it and hoping one day I could view it in person. It wasn’t until I stood with that piece of artwork did I truly understand the artist. Did the digital artwork impact me too? yes, but not on the same level. I think digital artwork is extremely important as it opens up a lot of new doors. Works are more accessible, global opportunities for artists are more obtainable now for artists, but I think digital exhibitions have a place, and that place for me is still secondary to an in life exhibition.
ARTISTS AT HOME - LATISHA REIHILL: When paintings take over the pjs are the artist's new look!
Lockdown has affected us all differently but much the same, we are all going through the motions as best we can. I can’t say I’ve felt good days and bad days, more so good hours and bad hours. I’ve had two of my exhibitions cancelled or postponed until… I don’t actually know when. I had invested a lot of time and money into these works, so I was feeling a bit deflated and worried financially. I had spent several months labouring away in the studio in excitement for the launch nights. I decided it would be best to bring all my works home from the studio and set up a makeshift studio in my small dining room instantly regretting ordering so many huge canvases. My work is abstract and bold, my painting methods are very gestural, and I have accidently gestured a few paintbrush strokes onto the walls and the floor too. I tend to work on several canvases at once as my painting technique is applying textures and layers, often times working on up to eight paintings at once, which in my tiny little room is impossible. I’ve felt a little enclosed and found it hard to step back and look at a painting, as I’ve not had much room. I’ve ended up having to throw paintings in the garden for some breathing space. Canvases seem to envelop the room, the entire house. My partner has been very patient and learned to walk like a ninja through each room as I’m forever shouting “Watch the wet paint!”. His Favourite addidas shoes have not been resurrected after a gessoing incident. I have considered in a moment of madness pinning some on the roof for extra space. It’s hard to work in chaos, but I’ve always practiced endurance and resilience, and this working from home however challenging is certainly not impossible, besides I’ve quite enjoyed painting in my pjs with a cup of tea most days.
More about Latisha Reihill and her works https://gallery545.com/collections/latisha-reihill