Yorkshire artists' lockdown paintings shortlisted for The Arts Society contest

Yorkshire painters have been shortlisted in a competition which has been organised in support of young artists and students during lockdown.

Artist Abigail McGourlay.
Artist Abigail McGourlay.

Abigail McGourlay, 20, who studies fine art at the University of Leeds, painted a self-portrait titled Brewing, in which she is depicted drinking a cup of tea in the bath, two things she has found comforting during lockdown.

She is now in the running to win the Arts Society’s Isolation Artwork Competition, alongside Harrogate artist Emma Money, whose piece Spirit is shortlisted.

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Another of McGourlay's works, Thalia Dorme, has also been included.

A section of Brewing.

The 10 artworks of the eight artists on the shortlist form a virtual exhibition hosted on The Arts Society Connected website from today, where people have a chance to vote for their favourite.

The artists were asked to respond to the theme of isolation and have produced new works that reflect the artists experience of lockdown.

Many of the works explore feelings of uncertainty, loneliness as well as nature, connection, and love, using subject matter ranging from self-portraits to shielding loved ones, and materials from acrylic to biro and pencil.

Ms McGourlay said: “I've struggled with the current situation both mentally and physically.

"The uncertainty of lockdown put me in quite a stressful mindset and I found it, at first, difficult to feel motivated.

"But it is due to lockdown that I have rediscovered my love of painting.

"This piece captures a real moment of comfort, in both my two favourite things, a warm bubble bath and a hot cup of tea and in myself."

Ms McGourlay was in the middle of finishing her second year at university and was working as a swimming instructor when lockdown hit.

She has been furloughed from her job and has been continuing her studies from home.

She continued: “I decided to take back some control that the quarantine had denied me and set goals for myself, I began to learn French, work on my fitness and flexibility and most of all focus on my painting projects.

"Despite the struggle, I feel that I am much more optimistic about my future now, I know I want to make changes to my life and I have been proving to myself that these changes are achievable over the past few months.

Ms McGourlay added: “I started sketching out this self-portrait at the beginning of my first year of University but as I started to develop and focus on my sculptural practice in university, many of my painting projects were put on the back burner.

"It is through this piece, and the time I’ve been given in lockdown, that I have rediscovered my love of the painting medium.

"The sense of utter consumption in a piece of work, like an almost hypnotic state, is how my dad used to describe me when I painted, and it is in this piece that I feel I have once again experienced that relationship with painting.

"This piece captures a real moment of comfort, in both my two favourite things, a warm bubble bath and a hot cup of tea and in myself, I am never usually the subject of my own work and this piece has allowed me to explore my own features in ways I have never felt comfortable to do before."

Its working title had been simply PG Tips.

Florian Schweizer, chief executive of The Arts Society, said: “We want to recreate and promote a sense of community, belonging and connection during a time of isolation and distancing.

"We believe the arts have the power to bring people together, and we will not let this virus stop communities from enjoying the arts with each other.”

The Arts Society is a leading arts education charity with a global network of more than 380 local societies.

Members of the public wanting to vote for their favourite isolation artwork can do so at: https://www.connected.theartssociety.org/isolation-artwork-competition