Roland Prime: Creativity in a Time of Crisis
How has this pandemic affected you and your creative output? How are you adapting to the new realities?
To be frank the pandemic has given me a bit of a jolt. Our worldly perspectives have been so acutely changed I’m still trying to fathom both the present and the future. I am producing some pieces, mainly from sketchbooks of our last trip which happened to be in the UK, in the county of Devon. I’m trying to do more, but I keep failing, as all I see is a numb BLACK.
I find that usually I can adapt, as we have changed countries twice in the last 15 years - packing the studio, paints, canvases and papers up into some boxes and then unpacking them at the other end. So, a space which is about 3m square always suffices. On this occasion however, we were in the process of finding a more permanent property in which to set up the studio again. But because of the pandemic, those plans are on hold, and we are instead renting a pleasant apartment with a room dedicated to the studio and importantly, a good view of trees, gardens and nature.
Please share any insights you have learned from this “lock-down/self-isolation”? Also, is there a special role you feel artists can play in response to the pandemic?
As an artist, this experience shows the benefit of having kept sketchbooks. It is also time to reflect on the direction my art is going and how to improve on that. It additionally highlights the importance of individual space and exercise. As the government here has encouraged one hour of daily exercise, nature has filled my life again. Fortunately, we are very near to woodlands and open fields, and after 15 years in the hot climates of the Middle East and Southeast Asia, it has been beautiful to reconnect with a more temperate climate and seasons. As we are in lock-down, it has been so good to hear the joy of birds as spring comes, the freshness of the air, as there is hardly any traffic, and the silence of the night.
In the UK, the art world has gone through the roof. Most major galleries and museums have opened up in virtual format. Opera has been screened as free performances, along with classical music, and plays and other entertainment has been made available to view online for free. The social media sites are buzzing with creativity on what to do at home, for both adults and children. It is often very clever and exciting. Some of our major UK Artists, such as Keith Tyson, Grayson Perry and Quentin Blake, through an initiative called The Isolation Art School, are creating online art lessons for all ages on various social media platforms. As an artist we are freer now to express our ideas than ever before. However, while during this pandemic crisis this model is working well, once we are past this, I do fear the institutions will go back to charging fees, which will again narrow the access of experiencing the beauty of art to only those who are able to afford it.
How do you think this will affect artists, the artworld and how people interact with art? How do you feel this crisis might reshape our societies in general, overall?
I think the art world will try and go back to its former ways. Right now, we are all seeing that we don’t necessarily have to act and behave as we were. The digital age has eventually come screaming through the analog mush which was holding us back. There were too many people involved in the decision-making process as to what art is to be highlighted and shown to the public. A great diversity of art already existed online. If we have to maintain social distancing, then the very nature of our galleries will have to change. How will we see exhibitions and museums? Perhaps virtually for the time being?
This pandemic is teaching us that we can each take control of our own lives, and that we don’t necessarily have to conform to the old ideology. It has also made visible the huge divisions that exist in our societies, which we all knew about, but have not done anything to address. Certainly, a new order will come from all this, but I think it is too early to say what that will look like. We have to take great care in the re-establishment of our society, for if we are not inclusive, we could quite easily see the darker side of human nature surface. Some even fear a “global war” could result, if it hasn’t already.
Roland Prime graduated from Canterbury Christ Church College, Kent, England with a B.A. in Fine Arts where he studied painting and drawing. Through the exploration of art, his work became gradually more three dimensional, and sculpture became an important part to his art along with painting. Qualified in welding, his work developed into creating large sculptures made from the discarded pieces of metal, a recycled art form. His paintings, which often concentrate on landscape and atmosphere, have gained noted public and private commissions.
While living in Cairo, Egypt, he was a founding curator for CARAVAN, an international NGO that uses the arts to build sustainable peace around the world. He has since lived in Malaysia, and is now living in the U.K.