The pandemic has affected us all in different ways. Mine is to paint my way out of the complex emotions I feel. These paintings are a result of my unease. 
COVID Chronicles
#1 Trying to Impose Order
#1 Trying to Impose Order

acrylic and ink, 22" x 13"

press to zoom
#2 A Bit of Freedom
#2 A Bit of Freedom

acrylic and ink, 22" x 15"

press to zoom
#3 Waves and Contagion
#3 Waves and Contagion

acrylic and ink, 22" x 13"

press to zoom
#4 Bubbles and Spread
#4 Bubbles and Spread

acrylic and ink, 15" x 11"

press to zoom
#5 Vaccine Promise
#5 Vaccine Promise

acrylic and ink, 15" x 11"

press to zoom
#6 Second Wave Funk
#6 Second Wave Funk

mixed media, 22" x 15"

press to zoom
#7 Variants
#7 Variants

mixed media, 22" x 15"

press to zoom
#8 And What are the Rules Today?
#8 And What are the Rules Today?

mixed media, 22" x 15"

press to zoom
#9 Delta
#9 Delta

mixed media, 30" x 15"

press to zoom

We’re now somewhere around the end of May or the beginning of June 2020 and some restrictions were lifted. Same urge-to-throw-some-paint. I tried again with pouring an S-curve, but again, it took a bit of a detour. But this one was serendipitous and my S-blob looked like a skateboarder or surfer. There’s an exuberance to the form that suggested that some gold paint might be in order. Of course, control is still needed, hence the continued use of geometry. But the mood is more upbeat, so I used purple for contrast. This is where I introduce my scribble shading, a type of doodling I’ve been doing for years, but have never used in any paintings.

It’s summer and we’re told that there will be a second and possibly a third or more waves. Bummed. I painted some green arcs on the paper. These shapes seemed to need a calligraphic touch. But way more geometry was needed! So I brought in the two other secondary colours, appropriate, I thought if we got a second[ary] wave.

Let’s not open too much if we’re expecting another one!

Things were so much more complex. Our neighbors to the south were seemingly out of control with the virus, political situation and social unrest. I was happy that the protests about social inequality were world-wide and that this time, change might actually happen, including here. How can we not see the humanity in each other? How could we all have put up with the old ideas that only white men knew what was best for everyone? Most white men I know don’t agree with that either.

 

I thought that this painting was a mess at first. Later it occurred to me that my urge to outline some of the colour could be compared to contact tracing to try to contain the virus. One of the circles became almost sphere-like, bursting out, unable to stay flat.

It’s April 2020 and I really needed to escape into a painting. We had been weeks now into a total shut-down. I had no particular idea in mind; I just had to put paint to paper. So I chose some favorite colours and began.

This was done in tandem with the previous painting. Bringing my concerns to our local situation, we were in the throes of mounting cases. But vaccines were in the testing phases and provided some more hope. Here again, I worked on the design aspects of the painting and only later noticed that my symbolism referred to the images we were seeing of vaccine production and injections. The triangle with the point stopping in the centre of the gold circle turned into an injection bulls-eye!

January and February 2021. We’re in a second wave. This one took a while to get under control and the gold inking took forever to do. The painting reads from left to right, like writing. We were in winter (the white) and I was looking forward to spring (the green). Between was the distribution of vaccines (the yellow). The red, as the wild colour, is the virus. Taking up more of the winter area, but continuing into spring, as the variants were emerging. The gold and white lines referred to travelling, people moving about, spreading the virus around. But optimistically, there was less red in the green!

It wasn’t looking good. March into April, the third wave. The variants were exploding exponentially, as they said. Scary stuff. So I used some very strong opposite colours and realized afterwards that I had spread them everywhere. It was hard to regain control of this one, mimicking our situation in the real world, albeit without the drama. After all, I could have just torn up the paper. But the gold here is for the medical staff fighting this madness, keeping our sick alive and giving them hope for a return to health.

This painting was finished at the end of April 2021. With the public health rules having taken reversals and adjustments over the past month, it has been hard to keep up with what we are allowed to do and not allowed to do according to public health directives. And there are other experts who have been calling for other measures such as installing air-purifiers in classrooms to protect more people. It must be so difficult to find the equilibrium between the physical health, mental health, safety of the vulnerable and economic health of all our citizens.

In this painting the circles refer to the vaccination roll-out—those groups lucky enough to have had at least one shot.  We can still get sick, but will not have as severe illness.  The disease and variants are there as the green and blue colors

End of June. At this point we in Québec are doing relatively well – vaccination rate over 70% for the first dose and case numbers are going down as the second doses are coming along. But as things open up, many of us might be forgiven for being a bit hesitant in a once-bitten-twice-shy type of way. We now have to deal with the Delta variant, which we are told is much more contagious and serious than even the Alpha variant, which was worse than the original disease. Yikes! It’s as if we still have to collectively hold our breath as it circles the globe, spiraling out from its source in India. This is a really good example of why we all need to help all countries get this thing under control. The lines with my doodling indicate how porous the border controls and quarantining measures are. And although there are right angles indicating control, they keep shifting with each variant, leaving us emotionally disoriented. Should we be excited with the cases finally dropping, or should we be wary because of Delta? Our joy is mitigated.