Drawing the curtains, the creative industry enters into a reflective period

Tuesday 24th March 2020 11:27 EDT

Ashes to ashes and dust to dust. What remains is the collective stories of the human civilisation. Strange as it may be, these times call for the artists to find their creative corners even as the Coronavirus pandemic threatens to clamp down on the finances of freelance painters, theatre connoisseurs among other artists.

“It seemed that we were all riding in a car where the brakes were failing and this pause is now necessary for us to look at our stories.

“We are all affected and professions like mine may have been more severely affected than that of others because art usually is not considered an important aspect of life by most individuals in our South Asian society,” said Ketna Patel a British Indian visual artist.

Most artists today would speak of their emotional and financial distress considering the cancellation of gallery exhibitions and diminishing prospects of being commissioned. However, Ketna, who lives on her own in London is synergising the power of solitude and the luxury of time into her creative projects. Her work extrapolates on an evolving human identity transcending beyond the physical boundaries of culture, nationality and geography. And she explains that her artistic sketches stem from constantly listening and recording the little details that we consciously or unconsciously ingest. She says,

Call for revival: Art has eroded in the last 100 years

“These are strange times but I am enjoying my gardens and the bright sunshine. I believe that solitude and creativity are intrinsically related. On an everyday basis we are bombarded with so much information that we don’t even remember or cherish a moment’s conversation. For all of us this may be a wake up call in understanding how culture, poetry, theatre and art has been eroded in the last 100 years. Recently, we have often come up with quick fixes because we are constantly running to achieve some or the other form of success. And now this is an opportunity to connect with ourselves and create art that speaks to the soul. It is time to record even this strange chapter into a historical memoir.

“I urge everyone, not just the artists, to take up a hobby where you do something with your hands- drawing on the paper, writing in your diary, or simply cooking. The virus is not the first time that mankind has been tested and it certainly won’t be the last. But if anything, this is an indication into the kind of robotic life we were becoming accustomed to.

“In this process of going back to ourselves, job insecurities will surface and we can possibly become weak because we are so busy chasing success that we do not know what to do with ourselves if we the externals are changed. But this is also the time when we can re-connect with our happiness and philosophical souls.”

Within the South Asian society art is often the neglected profession. Most boomers under-value the creative industry for their concerns around achieving financial stability during times as these. Their anxiety is not misplaced espeically if the UK’s massive theatre industry is observed. An analysis of advance ticket purchases from 196 venues of varying size, in the commercial and subsidised sectors, sheds light into the dramatic decrease in ticket sales.

Freelance theatre artist echoes concern around survival

TRG Arts and data specialists Purple Seven amalysed that there was a dramatic drop in the sales of advance tickets on 17 March compared with the same day in 2019 with the income dipping by 92% as theatre productions cancelled their shows.

“As a result of the government's announcement around social distancing in the wake of Corona virus on Monday, a decision was made by the theatre to cancel the rest of our show. This has been the case across the board with many UK theatres shutting down for an unknown period of time. At this stage its unknown what the future of our tour will be, and thereby our jobs. On top of which, there are concerns around money. Being able to pay the rent/bills etc, it is a massive worry for me.

“This is proving to be an anxious time, especially as a self employed freelancer, not knowing if and when future work will occur (more so than usual),” said Mitesh Soni, a theatre artist.

Soni has been trained at the Guildford School of Acting and some of his prominent work includes playing Deedar/Musa in Paradise of The Assassins, Ali Baba in Arabian Nights at the Manchester Library Theatre. In 2012, Soni won an award at the Manchester Theatre Award for the best ensemble for Arabian Nights. Now that a series of exhibitions have been cancelled including Riz Ahmed’s The Long Goodbye, creatives are thinking out of the box and coming up with alternate solutions to improve their creative abilities. Soni said,

“I have started establishing a routine for myself to combat the growing anxiety and depression amidst all such negative news. There are some great online/facebook/twitter sources to keep creatives active at home. Writing, keeping audition technique up, learning lines for the plays just for the sake of learning lines, self taping for the sake of self taping. Keeping in contact with others in the same situation. All this being key to keeping myself ready for when work does start up again.”

Recently the National Theatre of Scotland (NTS) and Home in Manchester are among the first theatres to commission major online programmes of work in response to the coronavirus, as theatres around the UK face months of closure caused by the outbreak. The commissions signal how arts venues are swiftly adapting in order to continue bringing new work to audiences.

The irony of our quarantined life today is that we are all depending upon art to get us through the days whether it is books, music, drawing or simply watching movies.

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