Fine art students respond to lockdown with a virtual art exhibition

Ruby Khan and Marta Betancourt are contemporary collaborative artists based in London. Currently in their 3rd year of a BA Fine Arts degree at The University of East London, they have been finding new ways to express their art in the face of lockdown restrictions. Without access to studios or workshops, and without being able to host a physical show, they turned to online technology and social media as means of publicising their work and generating an audience for artists.

It was challenging” they told us, “but we tried to adapt to be productive despite all the restrictions “.

Fine Art students and teachers have faced a particularly difficult time during lockdown. “Teaching has taken a 180-degree turn”, Ruby says. “We have had to adapt to the restrictions on the use of studios at the University. Being a student and an artist, this is a great limitation”.

Working on a painting for the exhibition

Faced with these limitations, and encouraged by their lecturer Pauline DeSouza, they developed a ‘virtual exhibition’ in which online visitors can engage with their collaborative work in a constructed virtual space, where visual and video media can be navigated.

Ruby and Marta have found the development of this exhibition a rewarding and successful experience. “We believe that the future is here” they say, “and we must be prepared for everything”. In spite of their fears and doubts, the need to change and adapt is something they feel will help them in their journeys as artists after graduation.

Indeed, those very fears and doubts have become an aspect of the very art they express.

The theme of their exhibition is the unconscious and spiritual awakening – an idea that evolved during their years of studying at The University Of East London. Both Ruby and Marta have experienced a journey in life where their sense of the unconscious has been profound and connected to feelings of spiritual awakening. The thematic interest in discovering distinctive and creative techniques has been mirrored by their use of a virtual space as the medium for their art – a spontaneous connection they have embraced.

So what will visitors experience?

There are a lot of hidden meanings related to the unconscious and spiritual awakening – so we work with shadows to release the unconscious from the light. The light reveals meanings hidden in the shadows.”

What have been the influences on your art?

There are a lot of different influences: Individual artists like Jackson Pollock, William Morris, Idris khan, Stephanie Jung, Curl Jung, Mark Rothko, Hilma Klint and Anges Martin. There is also a combination of abstraction, surrealism, action painting and performance art – expressed through a variety of materials such as acrylic paints, gloss paints, oil crayons, screen printing, paper, light, wood, canvas and MDF.”

Although they both work in different ways, both artists explore the theme of the unconscious where it leads them to develop works meditatively. The unconscious and the spiritual are connected through the individual artists and through collaboration.

So finally, what advise would Ruby and Marta give for other teachers facing the challenges and limitations of lockdown?

Be very patient and try to adapt to the new changes. Maintain proximity with your students and try to reduce the gap left by not being able to physically share in study“.

Discover Ruby Khan’s and Marta Betancourt’s virtual online show

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