Soheila Sokhanvari: Creativity in a Time of Crisis
Updated: Apr 17
How has this pandemic affected you and your creative output? How are you adapting to the new realities?
I have been shut out of my studio at Wysing Arts Centre due to the pandemic and I am therefore working from our study at home, which means since I do not have access to my hundreds of colour pigment jars, my latest art is a black and white egg tempera. In a sense, COVID-19 has drained colour from my art which reflects the intensity of the times. To be absolutely honest, my life routine has not changed that much; I am a hermit artist and I work long hours every day in my studio and the only difference is that I am working from home. I guess I am getting a lot more sun when I venture to the garden to read or to just sit.
Please share any insights you have learned from this “lockdown/self-isolation”? Also, is there a special role you feel artists can play in response to the pandemic?
The lockdown has been a very strange time for everyone. I think the more creative people have been able to cope much better with isolation than others, and here I include gardening, cooking, etc. But I am also aware of the pressures on families with children and people living in confined spaces.
One thing, for sure, is that the public have become more appreciative of the people in the service industry who had been taken for granted until now, and I am not just talking about the health service workers but the refuse collectors, delivery people, the drivers etc. However, to answer on the role of the artist at times like these, I have to say most artists are socially conscious and are very aware of the plight of people in need. As for me I have organised a number of art works donated by several artists, including mine as well as another CARAVAN artist, Afsoon, that have been put up for auction on Instagram to support food bank charities in London, as well as the Red Cross COVID-19 food bank appeal. As the collector pays directly to the charity, one hundred percent of the money goes to the charities.
Art does have a healing power and I am very proud to have my fellow colleagues join in and freely donate a work for a good cause.
How do you think this will affect artists, the art world and how people interact with art? How do you feel this crisis might reshape our societies in general?
I know many artists and galleries are struggling and I fear about a third of commercial galleries in London will probably close. Many galleries were trying to negotiate Brexit and soon after that they have had to go into a lockdown, so they were suffering from one whiplash before they received another. However, many galleries have been quite creative with many exhibitions happening online and as virtual reality experiences, and many artists have been very active on Instagram trying to keep in touch with their audience and there has been more people engaged with Instagram.
On a positive note there has been a lifeline thrown by some charities and particularly by the Arts Council for grants to apply for funding relief but as one can imagine there are too many artists for too few opportunities. I do believe that the COVID crisis has changed our societies forever and we will never go back to the way things were in the past but, also, I am sure there will be negative and positive changes for us all and time will tell.
Soheila Sokhanvari is an Iranian-born artist whose multidisciplinary work weaves layers of political histories with bizarre, mysterious and often humorous narratives that she leaves open to viewers to complete. Sokhanvari, a studio artist at Wsying Arts Centre (since 2013), received her MFA from Goldsmiths College in 2011, postgraduate diploma in Fine Art from Chelsea College of Art and Design in 2006 and BA Art History and Fine Arts from Anglia Ruskin University in 2005. She has recently been the recipient of the Derek Hill Foundation Scholarship at British School at Rome (Oct-Dec 2018). She has exhibited extensively throughout Europe, North America and the Middle East and her work can be found in international private and public collections.