‘Extended Stay’, an exhibition of new works by John Blackburn, reflects on the artist’s forced hiatus in New Zealand at the beginning of the Global Covid-19 Pandemic.
Blackburn and his wife, Maude, made their annual pilgrimage to New Zealand early in 2020 for the opening of his exhibition at ARTIS Gallery on 11th February 2020. As New Zealand entered its first lockdown on 25th March, the Blackburns made the decision not to return to their home in Canterbury, England, but to remain where they were based, in the comparative safety of Mount Maunganui in New Zealand.
For three months Blackburn set up his easel on his small balcony overlooking the Pacific and painted this series of works. The initial “lockdown” works created during the seven weeks spent isolated in Mt Maunganui, bring together Blackburn’s sense of quiet reflection. Forms lean into each other – sometimes overlapping and at other times drifting away.
All works have been signed, dated and inscribed on the back with various details, such as the location or significant events of that day. Hours spent sketching and painting have accumulated into a significant body of work, which has captured the artist’s experience of isolation, forced confinement and his extended stay in New Zealand. His signature use of found objects is less evident for obvious reasons and there is instead, a renewed focus on form and colour. Meticulously crafted shapes, created by hundreds of small pen marks, pervade a number of works – each mark painstakingly made by hand illustrate Blackburn’s sense of time.
Daily reflections captured in paint, a diary of sorts, marking a significant period in Blackburn’s life, were packed up and sent to ARTIS Gallery as the artist’s New Zealand visit drew to a close. These paintings can now be seen as a complete body of work at ARTIS Gallery, opening on Tuesday 2nd February 2021.