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Christopher Banahan's Lockdown Diaries exhibition will run at the Old Courthouse in Kinvara from September 10 to 14, 2021.

Exhibition’s visual reflections on lockdown

LOCKDOWN is seen through the eyes of an artist in a new exhibition, reflecting on the impact of the pandemic, which is to open next month in Kinvara.
KAVA (Kinvara Area Visual Arts) member Christopher Banahan will present new work based on his lockdown diaries and his creative response to Covid-19.
Supported by the prestigious Arts Council’s Covid-19 Crisis Response Award, ‘Lockdown Diary’ addresses themes of loneliness and the effects of social isolation during the lockdowns, particularly for the elderly and the vulnerable in rural communities.
On the flip-side, the exhibition also considers the positive impacts of the lockdowns, such as the re-evaluation of the natural beauty of local rural settings and the joys of being surrounded by such ‘imprisoned splendour’ particularly with the fine weather of the first lockdown last year.
“The experience of working in isolation comes naturally and productively for most artists but when the isolation is imposed by the government, it is a different experience altogether,” Christopher noted.
“As imposed confinement and the loss of freedom can be a constraint on the natural creative process. Therefore during the social isolation of the pandemic, I tried to address issues of confinement, loneliness, loss of liberty and losing one’s grip on reality as we all began to live in a ‘virtual online World’.”
Living along the coastal border between Galway and Clare, some of Christopher’s current work takes inspiration from the stunning local seascapes.
“The 2-kilometre walking restriction in the early phase of the pandemic at least allowed me to reach my local beach Traught, near Kinvara and sketch figures in isolation whose loneliness was more intensified by the backdrop of the empty wide open beach, which hardly had any footprints on,” he said.
“I remember following a set of one footprints and imagined the excitement Robinson Crusoe must have felt as he came across another person after being alone for so long.”
Reflecting on how the pandemic impacted older generations was particularly important for Christopher.
“I wanted to also reflect the fear elderly people and people in general felt when they queued outside supermarkets,” he said.
“Like most people, I had pandemic nightmares about the uncertainty of the times we are living in. I tried to express this idea of uncertainty in a series of isolated elderly people pushing shopping trolleys in remote exposed rural locations to exaggerate the insecurity and vulnerability of their experiences.
“Later when elderly people were allowed out, I tried to capture them alone, contemplating the expanse of the open sea as a metaphor for ‘the fragility of life against the natural elements’.”
The waves of easing and tightening of restrictions are also captured in scenes close to the coast.
“Then as the lockdown allowed more movement of people, I portrayed larger gatherings on people on the same beach, in search of the perfect staycation and how so many ignored the rules of social distancing,” Christopher said.
The ‘diaries’ also include more intimate images.
“Other Covid diary images are self-portraits, where I am trying to get used to wearing the face masks and how self-conscious they made one feel, particularly in the early stages of the pandemic when so few Irish people wore them,” he said.
“The Covid diary images are based on photographs I’d taken on my 2-kilometre walk during social isolation.
“Other images are from a small visual sketch book Covid Diary, often from my imagination. Reflecting my fear of the pandemic (particularly in the early stages when there was no vaccine and such a sense of uncertainty, of what really happens in the Covid hospital wards).
“I hope these Covid diary artworks, even though personal have a universal appeal expressing and reflecting the uncertainty and yet unique period we all went through collectively and individually.”
The exhibition will run at the Old Courthouse in Kinvara from September 10 to 14. Bookings for the launch on Friday, September 10 at 6pm, can be made through Eventbrite.com. Gallery opening hours are Friday to Sunday 10 am to 4pm and Monday to Thursday, 12pm to 4pm. More details on the work can be found on Christopherbanahan.wordpress.com.

About Fiona McGarry

Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald. Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti. She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at NUI Galway. If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at fmcgarry@clarechampion.ie or telephone 065 6864146.

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