A personal perspective
Christmas 2019 and this arrived (from a mate) as a Christmas gift card.
It is the work of Sheffield artist Jan Flamank, and was a pleasure: prints of nature images, colourful, and in elegant but varied styles. It sat in full view on the sideboard. And stayed there when the other Christmas cards came down, and indeed for whole of 2020. A source of enjoyment in what turned out to be a strange, and uneasy time.
For those of us who love art and who know how enriched we are by it, this has been, and is, a challenging time. Our usual ways of accessing art are not open to us. Galleries, both public and commercial, are closed. Stately homes whose walls are chock full of art works are closed: the National Trust has closed its shops, houses and visitor centres.
Charity shops where we can usually purchase second hand art books at comfortable prices are closed.
Even the interest in seeing what our friends and family and neighbours choose to put on their walls or erect in their gardens is not available, now that we have this severe lockdown.
So that little bit of art on the sideboard has carried on giving me some pleasure.
So what do we do? We turn to the internet and find what we can. And there has been an amazing array of creative thinking and offerings – the challenge of “how to do it differently in a difficult time” has certainly been responded to in various places. Thank goodness for the internet!
The national galleries have made some effort; “The Art Fund” is providing links to their on-line content:
Meanwhile, in Sheffield, “Our Favourite Places” is doing us proud with its updated info. They say: “Our Sheffield culture calendar is now focused on promoting virtual events. Helping you continue to enjoy art and culture from Sheffield, at home”. Must be difficult with the constant changes that lockdown is creating.
It is a good place to start looking:
Museums Sheffield too is doing its bit:
There are certainly parts of it I have enjoyed, for example, "Inside the Circle of Fire: A Sheffield Sound Map by Chris Watson".
And more stuff here:
At the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, the gardens remain open, but for very local visitors only; its indoor spaces are closed. And you have to book ahead and there are distancing restrictions. With lock down, we are asked to stay local: from Sheffield, that does not include Wakefield...
But a daily nudge has come from “British Contemporary Painting” with its Facebook posting:
You can get its “Painting of the Day“ sent to your Facebook. It is always interesting; some you like and follow up; others you move onto the next posting quickly. They do welcome people making suggestions for choices. Sheffield’s Andy Cropper was featured in August:
So yes, there have been, and no doubt will continue to be, offerings we can all latch into. And thank goodness for that.
But for me, the icing on the cake was the arrival in the Christmas post in December of Jan Flamank’s “Landscapes and other delights 2020” from the same friend. This is much more substantial than the previous product, and is a limited edition.
Well, having a pal with such good taste is a pleasure in itself. But opening out and seeing the variety of images in this “small folding book” (as the artist describes it) is indeed a pleasure.
So a bit of a search was called for. Who is Jan Flamank? And what does she do?
Here she is!
She was Artist in Residence at Scarthin Books, in 2018, spending time each month in the bookshop. She has also challenged stereotypical images of women, describing some of her work as: “a joyous and wry counterbalance to the increasingly narrow images of women we are offered in our culture.... . Inspired by the human figure I combine my drawing skills with mixed media to suggest the richness of long-lived lives - and I am very partial to a wrinkle”
Her interest in nature no doubt stood her in great stead when she worked as Wild at Heart Coordinator at Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust. Her project there used wildlife-related activities for older people and other vulnerable adults to improve their health and wellbeing, and give them confidence to re-engage with the community.
And for me, it is that recent emphasis on nature and landscape, and how that has appeared in her folding booklet, that has been such a joy and benefit to me.
Thank you Jan. And thanks to Jane who introduced her to me.