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Birdwood House, Totnes 17-23 April 2022 an exhibition by Contemporary Markmakers

Cars and dogs in the dark

When the focus shifts and lockdown shrinks the artistic view, when inspiration from Devon’s land and sea reduces to four walls and a garden, what happens? I am one of nine Contemporary Markmakers, submitting six large pieces and collaborating with the four display works. This one appears to be the favourite.

This vibrant exhibition shows that journey, the thoughts and sketches of ten artists cementing their responses to the most interesting of times. The finished work and the struggle to discover it, all on view from 17 to 23 April at Birdwood House, High Street, Totnes TQ9 5SQ.

Finding the lifeboat of zoom (before the government press office) the artistic weeks became months, then years, and an inspirational group became a close network of caring and supportive friends. 

Contemporary Markmakers kept together throughout, working together though apart, using prompts DUSK, DUST, DRESS, KETTLE to rediscover the smaller world around them.

DUSK each of us outside and watching the light drain, listening and feeling the growing dark before picking up charcoal, pen or brush to express the surroundings, without light to see by, feeling the cold, aware of a nation isolated: “Repeating our garden exercise, painting the sound of the dark, has held everything within it, bookends of two years’ of joint trauma”

DUST our world reduced and the detritus of our own lives became our inspiration, four walls, a waste basket, contents of the hoover, hair in the hairbrush: “Confined by lockdown we looked at our own resources and found magic in that”

DRESS we thought about clothing, watched clothes lines dancing, observed heaps of washing, thought about the meaning of putting on an outside layer to represent ourselves, how working from home had changed our public face: “Clothesline inhabited by spirits of owners, both presence and absence”

KETTLE our prompt to look, to catch the moment, to look around us, to grasp three minutes while the kettle boils and make our marks, sometimes of the kettle, or of the kitchen, or of our lives staring back at us as reflections on the kettle itself: “Deeply in our psyche to respond to trauma with ‘I’ll make a cup of tea’” … “Urgency of getting down marks in the time it takes a kettle to boil”