• Catherine Wynne-Paton

Anna Falcini on how to be an artist in lockdown

Anna Falcini is a visual artist whose work deals with the porous atmosphere of geography and the interface of language.

Her work has been shown throughout the UK, most recently at Oriel Davies Gallery and the postindustrial, coastal landscape on the Thames estuary is the subject of her Ph.D.

Anna is also a published writer, regularly commissioned by organisations such as Ffotogallery, Photomonitor and Oriel Davies Gallery.

AnnaFalciniunpacks Gwen John’s crucifix and painting smock from Tenby Museum during installation ofIn Between the Folds are Particles atAberystwythArts Centre in March.

I’ve been wondering how I continue practicing as an artist in this period of the Coronavirus when there is collapse and slump in the normal existence, when medical staff are working tirelessly and at great cost, to save lives and care for the sick.  Ahead of me was a busy period; my solo exhibition, 'In Between the Folds are Particles' atAberystwythArts Centre was postponed from opening until later this summer due to the virus and my PhD viva examination was also cancelled and rescheduled for September. Both events were the culmination of long periods of work and so there are feelings of disappointment but also of reflection.

‘In Between the Folds’ explores the draft letters of the late Welsh artist, Gwen John (1876 -1939) and I reflected upon the fact that John’s painting practice must have been interrupted by the events of World War One and the Spanish Flu.  Transcripts of letters she wrote during that period vividly reveal the impact of the war on the streets of Paris, from the sudden arrival of British soldiers to the bombardments from shells and canons directed towards the city.  In letters of 1914, therealisationof the war and her own vulnerability is brought sharply into focus by the attacks on merchant ships in the Channel.  ‘How dreadful that the channel is not safe now!’ she writes and I can imagine that the body of water that was so familiar to her and gave her the freedom to pursue her artistic career in France, was suddenly menacing and dark.

Guarded File:24 Letters,Digital copies, Archival Paper, Board,Bookclothand Linen Cord, 2019.

Despite the testing times, John continued to make work and in an extract from a note of 1916 she sums up the desire for making work; ‘What a world and what sweetness in humble solitary work, what pleasures.  Pleasures we miss when are insociétéor agitated.’  I am encouraged by Gwen’s thoughts, to take this time in the studio to explore the things that I had put on the backburner in order to focus on the exhibition and PhD submission.  A large blue striped drawing has begun to emerge, a development of a concept I had early on in my Gwen John research when I began intuitively applying blue stripes onto paper. I later found an example of blue stripes in the work of Gwen John in a painting now held at the British Art Center in Yale University. 

Blue Stripe drawing which featured on the cover of the catalogue forIn Between the Folds are Particlesat Oriel Davies Gallery in Newtown,Powys, 2019.

I have also overcome the problem of how to catalogue an archive of atmosphere, a key outcome of my PhD research.  The archive consists of a series of objects collected from the site of my research, on the Thames estuary.  I had bought an antique ledger type notebook a while ago for the purpose but, its strong identity as a banking book deterred me from using it.  After some thought I decided to deconstruct it and free the pages from the binding. Each page now has a description of the object and its atmospheric properties along with a hand drawn illustration and I am gradually completing the task of cataloguing the archive.

After some misgivings about the value of a creative practice in these times of a global pandemic, I am immersing myself into my artistic work because as I observed from Gwen, it is a ‘world of sweetness’ and one that is precious to me.

Links: Instagram: @annafalcini

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