Sylvie Roussel-Janssens

Since the beginning of the pandemic, my frantic attempts to “keep things normal” have shifted to acceptance of the unknown. I normally have a diverse art practice in textile sculpture.

Over the years I have invented ways to meld recycled steel wire and synthetic fabric to create window pieces, installations and sculptures with integrated lighting. 

My long time preoccupation towards reducing the carbon footprint in making art is now even more important. TOWERS is the result of a conscious decision to avoid using new materials and to work only with things that are in my immediate environment. First there were repairs; suture-like stitching on a crack, with mason string. Slowly, one hole and one stitch at a time, my commitment grew. It was filled with meaning: my environmental concerns, the war on plastic, our collective fear for viruses, the invisible threat causing anxiety, all appeared as symbols of microscopic organisms on the black vessels. TOWERS could also be called There’s a hole in my bucket. That traditional folk song is a long list of excuses for not fixing a problem. Is it what we are doing?

François Michaud

During the COVID-19 lockdown, I created a series of 100 small acrylic paintings on cut out paper, over 100 consecutive days, from April 1st to July 10th 2020. Those pieces are a humorous and poetic reflection on climate change and migration. They are a continuation of a series of large-format paintings and polychrome wood sculptures done before on the same themes. 

The premise of this work is a world in upheaval. The animals symbolize climatic refugees wandering the tumultuous waters in search of new territory. They transport their confined landscapes, on fragile boats, carrying their memories and the memory of their identity. They are in that place. Between nomadism and sedentarization, only the boat gives them a choice.

The 100 paintings are paired with fifty dictionary entries by the French writer Jacques Jouet, bringing together the painter and the writer, working daily on the ritual of the creative act, to offer a visual and literary adventure. The feeling of collective fragility that COVID-19 has introduced and the alarming media coverage during lockdown were the reasons I retreated in my studio. My daily attendance and pertinacity have led to a creative hyper concentration that I will keep up.

Marie-Pascale Lafrenière

Before the beginning of the pandemic, my practice was already tackling issues of mental health and feminine subjectivity. Living with a generalized anxiety disorder and chronic depression, seeing how the virus was attacking the bodies and minds of my community, at first blocked my creative process. However, after a few weeks, the isolation caused by the pandemic led me to question the changes in identity markers during periods of solitude. If previously the gaze of the Other was a determining factor in the perceived value of women’s bodies—especially as an object of heteromasculine desire—what does the feminine body become when no one is gazing? I began to witness changes on my own body, but also in my relationship to it and, consequently, on my behaviour and habits. In these times of uncertainty, my practice questions the role of the feminine body during isolation. Sometimes a shelter, at other times a work tool, sometimes in control, at other times out of control… how, and why, to take care of it when we are at the verge of the end of the world?

Valérian Denis

2021 is the year of my first panic attack. Speeding heart rate, cold sweats… in other words, it was the climax of a pandemic year, while I was stuck between the four walls of my Coal Harbour bachelor.

PROJECTIONS is an augmented reality experience that is designed for everyone whose heart likes to overreact. A moment to breathe when all warning lights are flashing.

Chantal Cardinal

When we were about to go into COVID lockdown, my first reaction was not to hoard toilet paper or canned goods but to fill up a couple of boxes with wool supplies to be able to work on projects from home.

Luckily, my studio was allowed to stay open with COVID protocols and this space became my refuge more than ever. Time has always been a precious commodity, and suddenly we found ourselves with nothing but time on our hands. With no deadlines, no new pitches, or looming deliveries, just lots of time to explore while the world around us comes to a stop.

It took a global pandemic to allow myself to take a deep breath, to slow down, to invest this time into exploring slow labor-intensive techniques, and to find solemnity in the act of repetition.

Hours, days, and weeks were spent focusing on repetition and finding a calm steady creative breath. This act of repetition would have normally been painful and frustrating, but in these challenging times, I found in it a peaceful reassurance. Knowing what I had to do day after day motivated me to continue.

My piece CORALIS was made around mid-April. What was going on at the time is very much present visually, despite the intention being unconscious.

Ghislain Brown-Kossi

This new 17 acrylic paintings series on canvas was created during the big wide world break (between March and July 2020 for me). Art has the ability of uniting and building stronger relationships and connections in times of crisis.

The paintings in the series ARE WE STILL TOGETHER question our relationship with ourselves and with others, in our occidental societies. During the last few years, we have been going through big changes on all levels : technological, political, social, economical, and spiritual. Through my new paintings, I express my interpretation of our society with bubbles, gazes, signs and symbols, and colors.

SYMBÔLES I and II represent two communication modes. The symbols used from the beginning of times to communicate one one hand, and the modern emojis that we find in our smartphones and computers on the other hand. These symbols help us express our emotions when we are writing a message. The idea is to correlate them to convey a great quantity of information.

BIBOU EYES concentrates on eye gaze. There are no faces. No frames. This gaze let us imagine the huge possibility of emotions behind it. Gaze is a form of communication that we need to learn again, because they bring credibility to our oral messages. 

These symbolic portraits invite us to a reflection about the implicit challenges that modern communication forms present. They ask us to build new dialogues in our communities. My work reminds us the necessity to be united. Despite the distance created by sanitary measures, social tensions, misunderstandings about our differences, we must concentrate on unity, mutual recognition and connection.

Serge Bennathan

The series GIANTS that I have created in watercolour on paper speaks about resilience. These spiritual guide-like creatures inspire us to have the courage to summon our own Giant within ourselves, to have the power and courage to act, to become our own Noah’s Ark, to save the values we cherish, ethic, love, all what we believe makes life beautiful and poetic.

This series was created during the first lockdown in May 2020. It was a way for me to dig deep and find my own resilience. I used a vision, the one of a Giant carrying me. Suddenly, thanks to poetry, tenderness, and a certain form of naivety, I was carried away and created for me a new life, since the one I had was stopped.

I believe that a message of resilience is offered through my images colours and poetry. It makes us smile, opens our minds, transforms our perspective on everyday life, leading us to be more generous with ourselves and others. My Giants’ strength helps us realize that we can be giants for ourselves and for others, by unveiling our gentleness. My Giants are a talisman against cynicism that these weird times impose on all of us.

Jerome Baco

From one day to the next, our normality shifted, changing drastically our relation to one another: suspicion, fear, anger. Isolation was not long to follow, and with it, anxiety. This period of uncertainty certainly abused us emotionally, and still is.

In order to keep my focus and motivation, I asked a simple question (through social media—somewhat out of character, but desperate time) which anyone was invited to answer: “who is your favorite artist?”. On the principle that the more I work the less I worry, I would draw the collected answers, compulsively. During 13 weeks, every day, I would share artist portraits and, thus, connect with people, saving me from insanity.

The collection of these 100 artist portraits was published early this year (WE WANT TO BREAK FREE, thepublishingeye, 2021.) even though the pandemic is still going strong.