Alan McIntyre: Connection from Isolation

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As part of a series of Covid Commissions 2021 showcases, Alan McIntyre presents a series of collage work with a soundscape and diary-style description of the creative process, responding to the pandemic.

My progressive sight loss has forced me to seek different directions for my creativity. The series of artworks contrasts images from spiritual and industrial symbols and icons to visualise some of the difficulties that I have had connecting to nature and the environment around us. Nature has been changed from a tranquil place of peace and joy to a potentially deadly space of disease.

Connection from Isolation tells the story of my journey through this situation incorporating sound work as a recent addition to my practice.

What is happening? Is this real?

I feel a bit hot and that might be the start of a headache. I might just lie for a while and see what happens. Maybe I can get to sleep again.

It was soon into the whole lockdown situation and I realised that there would be no art class for some time. It felt more uncertain if it would start again at all. As a visually impaired artist I have had to get used to my sight loss progressing over the years and it is more important that I make the most of the sight I have when I can. Having a Global health crisis has kind of put a hold on my enjoyment of making art.

Beep! Beep! Reminder, art class in 2 hours.

Oh Great that will be… Oh yes I remember now. There is no art class now and I have no idea if it will ever start again…

Looking out the window I sometimes felt an intense feeling of danger that I had to keep thinking that it surely could not be everywhere and that as long as we kept apart from people then we would be ok. How could I deal with the close feeling of a danger being present all around us? The fresh outdoors air and welcome arena of nature becoming a potential disease carrying soup.

It was also difficult to think about how I could stay connected to some creative process, in order to keep active during these difficult lockdowns. How could I process this current feeling of danger suddenly being all around us? I was thinking about what I could still do at home that was not so messy and so my usual paints, inks or mediums were out. Most of my art materials are still collecting dust on the shelves or on the cupboards at the art class. It is strange to think of all of the art studios that have been empty for so long. I have always found some kind of art making to be incredibly important to feed my soul.

(Intro Melody and news opening song) Latest news shows that covid has been shown to travel several meters… It could potentially travel further than scientists first thought. And now for the Weather.

Oh Great! That is all we need?

We have been seeing so many stories of thousands of intrepid adventurers trying to just get away for a wee break or a real holiday to escape the whole situation. Unfortunately for some then promptly having to frantically try and rush back before another increase in restrictions. The simple pleasure of getting away for a wee holiday has become an anxiety inducing ordeal. Nature has been changed from a tranquil place of peace and joy to a potentially deadly space of disease. At least I have not been able to see any images of the spiky ring thing. Our new enemy. I think there have been a lot of images of it being circulated around the internet to add to our collective fears.

How could I represent this new Global fear? I have always liked incorporating juxtaposing images or contrasts of forms and graphics in my work and this led to me focusing on collage. It is enjoyable to keep different scraps of papers, packaging, leaflets from shows or adverts and old newspapers which all have connections to time and place.

While looking around my art materials I had lying about, I remembered I had a selection of travel brochures that I had used for another series of small collage works. I started to collect a range of different idyllic and attractive landscapes from a variety of locations. All the time dreaming how an actual holiday there might be.

Additionally, I have always found warning signs fascinating with their bold colours and intense graphics that cover all imaginable and many unimaginable dangers. Memories of the wee electrified man lying on the ground with the spiked electric arrow coming down over the figure.

Suspected dangers or potential hazards are manifested officially through a vivid series of coded shaped and coloured symbols and graphics or pictograms. I was drawn to thinking about danger and how it is portrayed in society as I had various episodes of thinking about the impending danger that we now find our selves in and everything we touch or every breath in that we take could have a deadly contagion.

Living with sight loss makes so many things difficult at the best of times and the need to keep socially distanced meant that my mobility has stopped. From this new feeling of disconnection with the environment I had to try and keep my motivation moving. Having found myself being really disconnected to other people as I should keep socially distanced from everyone. However how can you keep your distance from other passengers on a bus when you are not really sure where anyone is sitting?

From these various threads of disconnection then images of different landscapes being closed off or obscured by the potential danger that we have found ourselves surrounded with appeared out of the blue. All of our mortality has been questioned and we are living in a place in time and History that will be looked at by countless unknown people in the future, who will wonder what was it like to have to live through the Great Pandemic of 2019. The Pandemic that ended on the 5th of March…..

(Music) Well that was a classic hit from May 2019 that reached number 4 in the charts. Aren’t we glad that that awful time is over and it is all in the past?
Now let’s go to the latest Sports News, and hear what has been happening at Wimbledon 2026….

I imagined figures or ethereal beings trying to reach nature and being locked out by the virus. Our fears and concerns about ourselves and our loved ones becoming real physical barriers that could stop us getting to the safety and enjoyment of nature. We have all been forced into a position of separation from each other and our surroundings. Our thoughts and fears have caused so many people to become separate from their friends families or loved ones.

Before the lockdown then often people would help me to find the nearest road crossing, bus stop or help me to find somewhere that I was looking for. I do not know if people would feel anxious about helping me now?

However it has not been all bad. As physical connections have been diminished. Then during this difficult time the big shift to the virtual World has been a great way for me to keep connected. The amount of zoom talks and virtual workshops have all really helped to make the long lockdown times easier to deal with.

I used to really enjoy regular programs of audio described gallery exhibition tours with practical workshops that related to the exhibitions. Thankfully some galleries have started up virtual Audio described tours or descriptions of selected artworks over zoom meetings. Great ways to keep connections with art again and they have been a new opportunity for different people either with sightless or those who are interested in art from anywhere in the U.K. to enjoy exploring art again together. These virtual tours have helped more people with sightless who love art to connect to each other and to art again.

The virtual world has helped to make new connections via Instagram which I have enjoyed exploring during the many months of lockdown. I have liked the new way to share art and how easy it is to make new connections with amazing creative people in many countries who have been keeping creative and active online with their shared Instagram feeds.

The ability to visit so many online exhibitions or events from all around the World without the hassle or anxiety of thinking about how I could get to a gallery or talk in person have opened the doors to keeping my love of art going during this strange time.

Working on this collage series has helped me to visualise some of the difficulties that I have had connecting to nature and the environment around us. From this extremely difficult time then I have had to change my art processes so much.

Also, while the shift to more virtual avenues for the ways that I can enjoy or keep connected with people has changed and been difficult, then new opportunities or directions for creativity are possible when challenges come around.

Hopefully our society starts to move forward to a different place with altered connections. The chance for negative connections to be dropped and more scope for interesting and varied digital contacts to each other and to the World being created.