The new exhibition Class, Covid & Cumbria at Blackwell, the Arts and Crafts House, weaves together the recent experiences of the Cumbrian people to reflect on the recent period of the COVID-19 pandemic. Featuring an amazing line-up of artists, the display will include textile pieces, photographs and documentary material from the mid-20th century.
To start with, the show features a famous tapestry by Turner Prize winner and celebrity artist Grayson Perry. The Annunciation of the Virgin Deal, 2012 is part of the series The Vanity of Small Differences and explores the nuanced themes of class and the politics of taste and consumerism that shift and morph depending on social standing. The tapestries start with a classical point of interest – William Hogarth’s A Rake’s Progress – telling the story of Tom Rakewell, a young man whose rise and eventual financial ruin is minutely documented across a set of eight paintings. Perry’s recreation of the story through the medium of textiles places a similar narrative in a modern time, inspired by the conversations and observations he made while travelling across Sunderland, Tunbridge Wells and The Cotswolds.
Alongside Perry, you’ll also find the work of Rosie Galloway-Smith, whose commission weathering the storm has recently appeared on the on the lawn at Blackwell. The piece is quite literally a washing line of responses gathered from people living in the area. Using a digital questionnaire, the artist asked questions such as “What gave you comfort?” and “What object(s) in your house began to irritate you?”, all in relation to the lockdowns to understand how the time of isolation and uncertainty has affected the local communities in Cumbria. The resulting clothes were made using printed patterns based on people’s answers and will be left outside throughout winter.
Last, but certainly not least, are two photographers from very different times, connected by a love for the area. Born in Manchester in 1893, Joseph Hardman moved to Kendal at a young age and enthusiastically documented everyday life, with a tender eye for his human subjects and an ability to truly capture the beauty of the surrounding landscapes. Following in his footsteps is Juliet Klottrup, a young photographer and visual artist currently working in and around Cumbria. Her photographs shine a light on tradition, the younger members of rural communities, and people’s connection to place.
The exhibition will also feature works created through the Lakeland Arts MEND project – MEND is a community-focused project which aims to connect people across Cumbria through creativity and shared experiences.
Directly inspired by or co-created with the communities of Cumbria, this fantastic combination of artists, techniques and local voices will certainly make for an authentic and memorable display.