Together and Apart

Ryan Bell, Digital Editor

Whilst the pandemic is not out of sight just yet, it feels as though something resembling normality is beginning to set in. As restrictions have been lifted over the previous few months, remnants of pre-Covid life are starting to reappear; musicians performing outdoors, sports stadium allowing spectators to filter back into the stands, cinemas reopening and in the case of Together and Apart, art exhibitions being open to the public.

Situated in Wakefield city centre’s former market hall, the exhibition, which is produced by Creative Wakefield with funding from Wakefield Council and Arts Council England, aims to deal with the variety of experiences felt by artists, established and novices, young and old.

An overarching theme linking the pieces is reflection. Each of the 17 pieces is accompanied by an information board, explaining the method and means behind the creations, as well as posing a question to visitors. The importance of discourse and conversation in art is apparent and deeply missed in time spent away from one another. “Do you remember…?” questions are just one of a few clever ways the exhibitions aims to resurrect the interactivity of art due to the pandemic.

Dawn Bland, member of Spectrum People

Visitors at Preview Evening

Seanna Doonan works

Naturally the exhibition has been adapted to account for remaining restrictions, but in no way does this diminish the actual experience. A one-way system helps avoid awkward proximity and promotes social distancing, but also makes sure you don’t miss anything as the artworks have been carefully positioned for maximum effect. Tony Wade’s paintings of his surroundings seen on his daily walks is an example where this works wonderfully, a circle formed by Wade’s artwork demands multiple scans, as through close inspection buildings and landmarks appear and re-appear through various angles and glimpses, allowing visitors to mind-map routes and journeys. The work by One Voice Online and Ali Bullivent incorporate audio elements which previously may have required headphones. Now with work provided by Nelson and Woodward, the audio escapes from lovingly crafted wooden structures related to their respective themes and echoes around the market space.

The way in which Covid-19 has touched our lives varies radically from person to person, and this is brought to life in an impressive format by Rhubarb Design House, who called out for Stories in Isolation during the first lockdown in the spring of 2020. Covering at least a third of the floor space, in a style recognisable as the social distancing markers found in public spaces, the collected stories of Wakefield residents range from playful optimism, concise poetic observations and starkly emotional honesty.

Rachel List murals

Mayor and Consort Councillor Tracey Austin

Merrie Collective

Together & Apart

Former Market Hall, Wakefield
10 - 20 June
10am - 4pm daily
Free entry

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Stepping along the array of short stories, your eyes will eventually be drawn to the back wall and Rachel List’s magnificent mural. Having previously painted children’s bedrooms before having to stop due to the pandemic, List was approached by a pub to paint a mural expressing the nation’s feelings towards the importance of the NHS. Her success has expanded since then and it’s easy to see why; List’s work is bold, colourful, and brimming with positivity. In an effort to encourage interactivity and inclusivity, thank you notes are available to the side of the mural for visitors to give thanks to that special someone who made lockdown life that bit easier, and List plans to return to the exhibition on two occasions to add contributions to the growing mural.

But it isn’t only established artists that feature in Together and Apart, the exhibition also welcomes some brilliant work from people who used an abundance of downtime in lockdown to work on their artistic ambitions. 2surethreads whose stitching workshops resulted in “Letter from Lockdown” a collection of unique stitched collages highlighting local people’s fears and feelings from the pandemic and foh-toh, an open call photography project that encouraged people to document the “new normal” found in their communities.

Every piece in Together and Apart tells a unique tale from the lockdown experience, and it would be foolish to try and summarise all of them here and do them justice, not the least to spoil the enjoyment of going and wondering at the marvellous work for the first time. Together and Apart is a unique experience that reflects upon this tumultuous time and has a limited running period of ten days from the 10th  to the 20th of June, so don’t hesitate to check it out, hopefully it’s just the beginning of things to come…

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