For many freelancers across the UK, the nationwide lockdown has seen a lack of work and an unsteady income become grim reality.
Just two days ago, artists including Anish Kapoor, Jeremy Deller and PJ Harvey signed a letter calling on government support to the arts – the concern being that the coronavirus could render the UK “a cultural wasteland”.
London-based painter Frank Laws felt the impact after a contracted job he’d been working on for almost 10 years came to an end as the UK’s lockdown began in early March. Finding ways to busy himself, a friend suggested he take on commissions or start selling his sketchbook work.
Instead, Laws – who was used to spending days isolated on his own in his studio even before lockdown – posted a watercolour painting of his isolation view. It appeared on his Instagram, alongside a caption asking his followers to send in pictures of their own viewpoints. In return, he’d send them a personalised A5 painting for £75.
“Having previously looked at views out of windows, I thought it would be interesting to ask people to send me theirs to paint as a good documentation of this moment in time,” the 37-year-old says. The project, titled Isolation Views, quickly gained traction, with commissions coming from across the UK, and later France, Denmark, Sweden, and The Netherlands, too.
Laws’ previous work includes the watercolour paintings E NINE, Beamish House and 342 West 15th, all of which focused on buildings and viewpoints. It’s an “observation thing,” he says, “everyday things people don’t notice,” and the artist pays a particular focus to social housing – stemming from an appreciation for the work that goes into brick-built buildings.
In between paintings, Laws keeps himself busy by meditating daily, doing press-ups, cooking, and riding around London on his bike, like a zenned out Bradley Wiggins.
“I’m also doing a bit of Houseparty, but that died off pretty quick – I think the novelty wore off within a week or two!” he adds.
With the Isolation Views project having started five weeks ago, it shows no signs of slowing down just yet. The most recent, and 32nd, painting of a view in Norfolk, is the latest addition.
“Everyone seems super positive about it, and happy to have a memory of these times,” he says. “And to be part of a collective idea, too.”