Over lockdown, many of us were faced with extended periods of isolation and loneliness. Now we can finally see and spend time with our loved ones again and meet new people to explore intimate moments with. A celebration of couples kissing one another can be seen within Figurative Art Now’s online exhibition. 

Firstly, we see this in Hilary Barry’s If the Time is Right, where she captures an older couple holding one another, heads leaning towards each other for a kiss. Hilary uses bright and optimistic colours and explains how lockdown implicated her artwork and the subject matter of her paintings and how she is now celebrating brighter futures, depicting moments of connection in her work; ‘During COVID Lockdown, I have had the opportunity to rethink my art practice/life. My paintings are about the inner and outer world, and my mind often focuses on memories. I am haunted still by some of the images I have seen during this time. There is a ray of hope, a spark of optimism. The work has become bolder in colour, freer in use of paint, mark-making has become more spontaneous. I return to a painting and repaint, build more layers of glazes and marks. The layering in the painting is about memory, life, and painting time. I thought this year I would continue to produce dark, bleak images as I did at the beginning of the pandemic. Simple things like touch and contact are fundamental for new beginnings. My palette has become brighter and my touch lighter. I wanted these paintings to be optimistic.’

Hilary Barry If the Time is Right Oil on canvas 64 x 94 cm £2,300

The next painting with people kissing is Tamsin Morse Commin’s painting Bench Kissing. Capturing an intimate moment of two teenagers on a park bench in front of a brightly coloured graffitied wall, Tamsin depicts the excitement felt by teenagers when they first begin to experiment and explore with one another. Tamsin writes about her work: ‘My paintings depict moments of fragility and vulnerability in womanhood; teenagers in a state of liminality; a captured act of social interaction and flirtation; pitfalls and confusion in the role of modern life. Throughout lockdown, paintings and drawings about the urge to be loved and held, the exploration and yearning for the important human touch, particularly amongst teenagers who are missing out on the vital connection and development through social isolation. Drawing and layering build the work up, maintaining movement and spontaneity.’

The graffitied style and strong graphic mark-making techniques continue from the wall and onto the figures’ bodies, seen on the jeans and shoes, which helps to portray these youthful feelings of speed, urgency, and spontaneity that yearning teenagers often feel.

Tamsin Morse Commins Bench Kissing Oil on canvas 120 x 65 cm £3,500

Adam De Ville’s painting Did you Remember to Bring the Flask? shows a couple embracing, their abstracted heads leaning in towards one another, as if moments away from a kiss. Adam says that this piece portrays an ‘intimate third date, not quite ready for a restaurant, but a packed lunch will do.’ Bold mark-making techniques capture the sense of the figures who are depicted with a yellow glow around their bodies, creating a joyful sense of warmth and connection. Adam De Ville is a self-taught artist. He explains that: ‘character, story and capturing the moment are core elements, with displacement and belonging often forming key themes. Comedy is important to my work, as is the constant exploration of genre and technique.’ 

Adam De Ville Did you Remember to Bring the Flask? Oil on canvas board 25 x 20 cm £550

Lastly, we explore James Robert Morrison’s drawing There is Never More Than a Fag Paper Between Them: Kieron and Wayne. Through James’ work, he explores his own journey, memories, and experiences attached to his homosexual identity. His beautifully detailed drawing captures the personal and intimate moment between two males sharing a kiss and holding hands with one another. For this project, James sourced imagery of ‘couples’ from his collection of gay pornography. He then created drawings on the original and challenging medium of cigarette papers, cleverly playing on the word fag, which historically has been used derogatively towards gay men. James explains:

‘My work is an ongoing conversation where I explore memory and experience around the discovery of my homosexuality, subsequent decision to conceal it, and journey to an understanding and acceptance of it.  Wide-ranging in scope, my practice includes drawing, collage, embroidery, and painting, all of which are transformed into highly personal mediums to create playful artwork in nature and discusses this matter with honesty and openness. One morning on the bus, I overheard a teenager describe a gay couple in his class as "never having more than a fag paper between them". I'd never heard this term before, and it stuck in my mind, making me think about how different things were for me at that age. I didn't know anyone gay, there were no 'out, and proud' gay public figures or couples, and school was an exclusively heteronormative environment due to section 28. What I did have, though, was a collection of gay pornography, and I guess the couples in these magazines were who I had to look up to.’

James Robert Morrison There is Never More Than a Fag Paper between Them - Kieron and Wayne Pencil on fag (cigarette) papers 28.1 x 27.3 cm £1,725

It is so important for queer individuals to be able to see themselves reflected in the media and in artworks and exhibitions, to normalise non-heternonormaitve identities, and whilst representation of LGBTQIA+ individuals still has a long way to go due to the lasting legacy of the effects of section 28, it is slowly improving. 

Here is a list of some charities and organisations working with the LGBTQIA+ community:

www.stonewall.org.uk

www.galop.org.uk

genderedintelligence.co.uk

www.educateandcelebrate.org

www.openingdoorslondon.org.uk

mindout.org.uk

www.rainbowmigration.org.uk

Article written by Hannah Martin

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