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One of the organisers of a project showcasing youngsters’ lockdown artwork said one painting ‘literally took his breath away’.
Gigha-based Kenny Wilson was one of several youth workers and artists from across western Argyll who encouraged 11 to 17-year-olds living within the catchment areas of Campbeltown, Tarbert, Lochgilphead, Islay, Oban and Tobermory secondary schools to submit any kind of visual artwork.
It came after a conversation and shared concerns about the well-being of young people during the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown. It was designed as a way of inspiring artistic young people to do something outwith the school curriculum.
The results proved to be quality over quantity with just two submissions which were exhibited via a dedicated Instagram account.
Kenny interviewed one of the young artists – known only as ‘G’ in accordance with the project’s safeguarding policy – to find out what motivated her to take part and why she submitted the image she did.
G, who was joined by her parents during the interview, said: ‘I used a photo taken pre-Covid of my best friend, who I was really missing.
‘I loved the photo as, in real-time, it was an incredibly happy moment. We were both laughing a lot, so the creation of this painting was, at times, an overwhelming emotional process, taking me through the space of disconnect and isolation.’
Kenny said: ‘Only four or five times in my life have I looked at a painting or image and had a really strong emotional reaction to it. Sometimes this has happened to me in an art gallery, at other times in exhibitions, but on this occasion it was G’s image that affected me so. It literally took my breath away.
‘I discovered that G submitted this image because it expressed how she felt at the time of lockdown: trapped, lacking motivation and missing friends. G could have submitted other images from her personal portfolio but she told me this one spoke loudest of all.’
G described the artistic process of bringing the image to life: ‘I used acrylic paint with a dry brush technique, taking a highly saturated colour palate ranging from warm purples, through reds, orange and yellow spectrums, painted onto a black base canvas.
‘The style was inspired particularly by the work of Scott Hutchison, who explores time and the ‘self’, creating extreme, expressive faces in a saturated colour palate. He challenges our perceptions, testing what is real or an illusion, just as my happy photo moment flipped to a darker, tethered place.
‘I also drew on the early work of Ken Currie whose study of Glasgow’s industrial workers as unsettling pale shadow figures standing alone and partially visible, in a world in isolation, really influenced how I felt.’
Kenny said: ‘The interview I had with G was as fascinating as the image she shared which, for me, aptly described the feelings so many young people expressed during lockdown.
‘I am glad she was brave enough to submit this because it has become my ‘image of the past year’, one that even Covid could not suppress.’
The organisers are planning to hold another youth art showcase in 2022 but, as suggested by G, they will wait until after exam season in the hope of encouraging more young people to take part.