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Time and Art during lockdown by The Shape of Time

January 28, 2021

The shape of time blogging handle of Anna Kriger artist

'The Shape of Time' - Anna Kriger - is a Russian-American artist, living and painting in London. Her occasional blog, called ’The Shape of time' will be exploring the relationship between art and time. Time means so many things to different people, and it can be personal, psychological and cultural. This is Anna’s first real attempt to paint meaningful pictures through the shapes of words. It is a struggle, but an imaginary one.

Anna Kriger 'The shape of time' art blogger Skylark Galleries

Nature is not silent by Anna Kriger

We have been counting and enduring time since, well, the beginning…. But even more so recently during these lockdowns of 2020-2021. The pandemic brought with it an awareness of time and what we can and can’t do with it. As Zadie Smith writes in the Intimations (essays reflecting on the pandemic): "The writer learns how not to write. The actor not to act. The painter how never to see her studio and so on.”  Free time, when we have it in the right amount is delightful; but if there is too much of it, it can also feel oppressing.  And yet, without time at all, artists lack that which allows creativity... It is both the sun and the water our seedlings take to live.

During the pandemic, some lucky artists were given more time by their circumstances, which came at a price: a feeling of guilt and of surviving well when others were not. Why does one person get to live and other not? And what does any art matter, or any art that I can make? These were the kind of dark-coloured questions I was asking myself during the spring and summer of 2020. The answer always seemed to be to stop making art because it couldn’t possibly matter one bit in the face of such a powerful competitor: death herself. Or is it himself? Both? Death is gender neutral and does not attempt humour.

I moped through the spring, summer and fall of 2020, making bad lacklustre paintings and sanding them down or re-stretching canvasses in what felt like a day on a loop, everyday the same. Then I had a kind of insight. If time “gives you lemons….” kind of a breakthrough. On one hand the days stretched long and impossibly empty, and on the other, human suffering seemed to always be coming up with new ways of expressing grief.
As an answer to this problem, I began to use time as a means of therapy - counting the hours I could spend working, whatever could bring most satisfaction. It felt like I made time a real presence in my life: observable, but eluding any observation whatsoever… Escaping the awareness of self by being in the flow. I was painting, an hour or two a day, but enough to feel productive. I was aware of time and its gifts and I felt part of it now, not outside of it. Maybe this is what creativity can do for all of us: as an escape and as something to work towards.
This is the hope that remains, even as we enter 2021 in another lockdown, each of our sufferings being a different flavour, but our desire to transmute time and make it count – human. As Emerson wrote in 1841: “the one thing which we seek with insatiable desire is to forget ourselves, to be surprised out of our propriety….and to do something without knowing how or why….” 
Perhaps a good reason for all different forms of creativity can take shape is this human ability to loose our known memory and surprise ourselves with what other kinds of memory are there instead. 
What is the story, the painting, the poem, the haiku – burning inside of you, trying to get out? Time will tell. So let it. 
Here are the works that I think go with the idea of time, how we spend it and what it leaves behind.
Zen by artist Gill Hickman
Back and forth in Ischia oil on canvas by Stella Tooth
Catalina Blue Leaf Imprint by Ruty Benjamini

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