The Fine Art of Self Care
From virtual gallery tours to artist’s Instagram feeds, retreating into art during dark times is true escapism
I get lost in art. It’s my true love, my sanctuary.
Every corner of my little flat is covered in it. Bits I’ve picked up from junk shops, a gorgeous limited-edition by Jack Vettriano that my parents gave to me for my 30th birthday, photos in frames and posters of artworks from galleries I’ve visited. Empty walls are my worst nightmare.
Retreating into art in dark times is a way of coping. It’s pure escapism, a step inside another world. I stare at the paintings on my walls and imagine myself inside them. That’s the beauty of art: you go wherever you want, can be whoever you want to be – just for a short while. I move myself into a painting for a bit, imagine myself right there in ink and paint. Maybe I’m a JH Lynch beauty striding out of the water in my knickers, or a solitary woman in muted pastel tones by Prudence Flint – although this isn’t too far from my reality…
I have found myself visiting a different artwork in my home each day since lockdown. It’s like falling in love with each piece all over again as I gaze at it. By studying it, I am transported not just inside it but back to the moment I bought it.
Now that I can’t browse for artworks in my local vintage shops or spend hours strolling around art galleries, I’m approaching art online with renewed vigour. Because really, isn’t the internet pure witchcraft?
The gallery’s first ever exclusively virtual exhibition, Here and Now (of which part proceeds will be donated to the NHS) opens online on Monday, April 6. The use of the latest 3D capturing and rendering technologies means you can walk around the gallery on your screen and zoom in to see each artwork in detail, every brushstroke displayed with clarity. This group show includes photographer Romina Ressia, whose exquisite work has a painterly quality that is magical.
Every day at 5pm, the Sarabande Foundation will release one of its artist talks online. A selection of recordings of live events which have taken place at Sarabande’s London HQ in the last three years, I am most excited about seeing Juno Calypso, who I just adore, on Monday, April 6.
I discovered the London Drawing Group when I attended their tour Powerful Women: A Hidden History at the National Gallery – which is also when I discovered that just 11 of the 2,300 artists on display at the National Gallery are women! From Drawing Mindfulness to their usual Feminist Lecture series, they’ve now moved all their classes online. Female Sexuality and the Male Gaze will be brilliant.
I could spend hours, days, in this app. There are street art tours, explorations of paintings in detail, tutorials and stories about artists such as Frida Kahlo – you can even take a virtual tour of where she lived, Caza Azul (the ‘Blue House’) in Mexico City. I’ve been there in reality so it was wonderful to revisit it without another person in sight. You can even take a selfie to match yourself to a figure in a work of art.
Virtual gallery tours
I’ve loved virtually wandering the empty halls of galleries, something that we could never do in real life, and spotting iconic works of art: The National Gallery, The Louvre in Paris, Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the V&A, and the University of Cambridge’s modern and contemporary art gallery Kettle’s Yard all have wonderful virtual offerings. Plus on Monday, April 6, Tate Modern’s Andy Warhol exhibition will be available to view online, followed by Aubrey Beardsley at Tate Britain on Monday, April 13.
Inspirational Insta accounts
I have also found myself lost in Instagram accounts – but instead of endlessly scrolling, I’ve immersed myself in just a few select pictures a day.
A lovingly curated selection of artworks, all featuring women wearing red. From Helene painted by Henri Matisse in 1937 and the portraits of Alice Neel created in the ‘70s, to contemporary artists such as Kelly Beeman and Kehinde Wiley, this account will reconnect you with old masters and allow you to discover classics of the future.
Curated by art historian Katy Hessel, this Insta account is a daily dose of female art. Her beautifully written captions put each of the paintings into an art historical context, too – take this exuberant work by pre-raphaelite artist Evelyn De Morgan for example. Katy also recently interviewed the iconic Tracy Emin for a Dior Talks: Feminist Art podcast.
A badass collection of art featuring babes who don’t fit within traditional standards of beauty: fat bodies, women with tummy rolls and cellulite, dimples and saggy boobs. Mostly works of art history, but also some contemporary examples too.
I was obsessed with Egon Schiele’s work when I was a teenager, transfixed by the naked bodies, entwined limbs, body hair, breasts, labias, legs spread. I find it very powerful and confronting. This Insta feed shines a light on these sublime women painted by the Austrian artist.
I also love these artists: Lydia Blakely whose realistic and relatable portrayal of groups of women getting drunk at the races is reminding me of tipsy moments with my mates; Prudence Flint whose solitary women, who look quiet yet strong all at once, are placed in everyday pastel-hued scenes; Paola Ciarska‘s miniature rooms each containing a nude woman (particularly enjoying this one with the giant lava lamp); Alexey Kondakov who drops figures from classical paintings into modern-day photographs; Alex Merry for her dogs in dresses and cats casually smoking cigarettes; and Jordan Casteel whose *almost* life-sized works are created from her own photographs of people she has encountered. There are also some illustrators I love here.
We need art more than ever right now, I hope you manage to escape inside it too.
Feature artwork: Pink Blanket by Prudence Flint