The “Corona Diaries” is a series of articles on how local people from different industries and businesses experience the pandemic.
Thank you to Eden Grace for the initiative, writing the articles, and for the insight.
“How has 2020 changed you?” This year was a collective shock and a very personal experience at the same time. Social, economic and political magnitudes of this year are amply debated. But we cannot deny the emotional impacts too.
This “Corona diaries” series is about how real people, living and working on La Côte, have adapted to Covid. I also wanted to know how they have allowed this period to reshape them.
Thank you to Uli Van Neyghem, our first guest for her participation.
As an artist, she has been fortunate enough to continue working in her field. She has found comfort in documenting the small pleasures of this strange time we are all experiencing. Uli created a Lockdown Collection called ‘Here and Now’.
Q: Uli, What inspired you for the collection, and what is it about?
A: We have all been confronted with unprecedented times by the pandemic. Being locked down for a considerable time of the year has taken the speed out of our lives. How did that affect us?
Rather than concentrating on the fear, news headlines and infection rate statistics, I needed to find upsides to keep my sanity. I asked myself whether it was possible that 2020 taught us to be more present and to live more in the moment? That we don’t always have to look far and wide to find contentment?
I think we can answer this question with a definite yes. Never before have there been so many people out and about in nature, rediscovering simple outdoor pleasures. Picnics and lighting a fire to roast sausages in the Jura is replacing pre-pandemic city trips or shopping sprees.
Pastimes are being rediscovered. Taking the time to read a good book, the comforting pleasures of baking and cooking, or a relaxing soak in the bathtub are making a comeback. My ‘Here and Now’ collection explores these quiet moments.
Q: How much of yourself is present in this collection?
I use art to find inner peace and balance. That is visible in the serene atmospheres I create in all my paintings. The still lifes with reflections, the calm lake scenes, or the ‘Here and Now’ collection, for that matter.
My art has also always helped me to adapt to new realities or environments. When we moved here in 2011, I started painting Switzerland-inspired themes like the surrounding landscapes or my signature collection of Swiss cows for example. It was my way of growing roots in a new place. Painting a Lockdown collection to reflect on our changing world in these unprecedented times, is my way of getting to terms with it and coping.
Q: You create from a place of inner peace. How have you managed to maintain that space for yourself given the tumultuous nature of these times?
I will not lie, it has not always been easy or even possible to drown out the noise of the media coverage or shake the feeling of being paralyzed. It would be easier if I was one of those artists who work off their anger or frustration by slapping paint on a canvas! We can’t be positive about what is happening all of the time, I try to be kind to myself and trust my creative nature to resurface again after momentary dips.
Q: What have you found to be the most challenging aspect of being an artist during the coronavirus?
Not being able to physically exhibit my paintings is very difficult and requires spending a lot of time on social media to find electronic ways of presenting my art. But it does not replace the inspiring exchanges taking place during art fairs or exhibitions.
I am also a co-founder of Collaborative Art ™ , offering creative team building and event experiences worldwide. Needless to say, the pandemic brought our activities in this field to a full-stop.
Q: With social, cultural events and exhibitions on the back burner, do you think we value creativity and art differently?
That is difficult to say. In times of crisis, culture is more important than ever. Millions of us are (semi) confined in our homes. Music, films, satire, books, and online performances represent a source of consolation and hope. Artists and museums all over the world are working hard to adapt and deliver art in more creative ways than ever.
But the economic pressure is enormous. Let’s not forget, a large number of people are already working with a high level of commitment but a very low level of security, especially in economic terms. There is a real danger of losing much of the richness and diversity of the regional and global cultural scene. We might not be able to recover from this ‘culture shock’ for many years.
Initiatives to support the arts and culture sector on a governmental and political level give some cause for optimism. Whether our life remains ‘colourful’ and our ‘spiritual food’ diverse is up to our society now.