Karen Loader

‘between states, 2020’

Question: have you coped in lockdown without your studio?

During Lockdown I have been working in my home studio. But with most of my materials and tools in my main studio in Woolwich I had to be resourceful and work with what was to hand. This turned out to be coloured crayons and a pad of grey card. To begin with I just wanted to immerse myself in the act of making in order to distract myself from the distressing crisis of a global pandemic that had changed our normal patterns of behaviour and prevented us from interacting in the same physical space with other people.

As often happens, when you have no pre-conceived ideas and allow yourself time to play and experiment, things emerge unconsciously through the process of making that inevitably reflect your thoughts and feelings. Of course, my usual processes came into play – rhythm and movement; repetition and geometry; colour and perception – things that have become embedded in my practice as a whole and are therefore inherent and instinctive. But making these ‘isolation drawings’, as I call them, allowed for a gentler practice that could be executed in small bursts, as and when I felt the urge.

After several weeks of drawing I started to become conscious of what worked and what didn’t. Vertical and horizontal lines and orientations have always been dominant in my work. I think this has something to do with the opposing energy that they bring – dynamic versus passive. So I used lines in different colours that overlapped and intersected to create a sense of movement and space. It became a process of learning by doing. At some point, I made a cut-out shape in card inspired by a room plan but with its corners clipped at one end. This became my template for the later series of drawings that followed. I rotated this shape, moved it up and down and inverted it across the surface. Each drawing was executed using different colour-ways, generally with the background being lighter than the shape hovering across it. I kept going until I ran out of card and then stuck the drawings on my studio wall in a grid. Each drawing was hung in portrait mode and the final installation was 6 by 6, so 36 drawings in total.

Standing in front of this piece, I was struck by how much more impact the drawings had when seen as a series rather than individual pieces. By repeating something over and over, minute adjustments of placement and colour, a bigger picture emerges that becomes more expressive of various states of being and various states of mind.

The drawings as a whole seemed to reflect the restless nature of being in lockdown and how my fluctuating swings of mood changed uncontrollably from crippling anxiety to a zen-like state of calm. Also, how my physical well-being seemed to be in a constant state of flux – one moment inert and stagnant, the next moment full of energy and optimism. The colours in the drawings, which were chosen spontaneously, also reflect this. Some are more vibrant and contrasted, whilst others appear faded, the shape almost disappearing into the background.

This points to another poignant fact of lockdown – the ever- increasing sense of invisibility and isolation as we adjust to our ‘new normal’. It made me reflect on the importance of balancing mind and body. How our physical well-being is important in order to sustain our mental health. One day I will look back on this time with a more informed viewpoint, but for now I have the drawings as a reminder of what it meant to me.

Karen Loader - 11th May 2020




Fade Quarter