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What this image says about the coronavirus pandemic

Why it’s important to be creative during times of crisis

As the pandemic wears on, people around the world continue to live in self-isolation or under strict lockdown measures — this includes many members of the international artist community.

While working alone may suit some creatives just fine, others feed off intimate interaction and visual stimulus from beyond their immediate world.

In the absence of physical human connection and with movement drastically limited, many artists have had to turn inwards for inspiration. Whether that means reaching into the back catalogs of their memories, or creating new and entirely imagined worlds and landscapes, the creative response to the coronavirus crisis has been extraordinary.

With that in mind, CNN asked 9 artists living in cities around the world to create an original artwork that reflects the times we are living in today. Scroll on to see the results and read about their personal experiences.

Gary Taxali: Toronto, Canada

Credit: @2020 Gary Taxali All Rights Reserved

“Staying in and getting lost in making art is pure bliss.”

Gary Taxali

The pandemic has forced everyone into a state of introspection due to isolating, whether welcomed or not. As an artist, it’s not the worst place to be because that happens automatically when I create work. Staying in and getting lost in making art is pure bliss. Nothing is better. The unease derives from losing the ability to take daily breaks and observe and interact with the world. The myriad of little things on the outside serve as much needed creative catalysts for my art. A funny and bizarre overheard conversation, an oddly beautiful hand-painted sign on a building, a rebellious flower busting through the pavement — the list of inspiration is endless. The only thing I have to go on right now are memories of these experiences. Yet it’s wondrous to have a heightened appreciation of everything out there, and for that, I relish in gratitude.

Anthony Muisyo: Mombasa, Kenya

Credit: Anthony Muisyo

“This has been a period of self-reflection — to try and understand what kind of world I’d like to live in.”

Anthony Muisyo

Vurugu is a Swahili word that loosely translates to chaos — chaos defined by the unprecedented threat humanity faces in the form of the Covid-19 pandemic. This unusual period has been marked by a sharp spike in mentions of anxiety all around us. I believe this is a feeling that is shared across the general population right now and one I tried to capture with this piece. Working on this piece offered me a chance to be introspective and question all these fragile systems that society is currently built upon. It gave me yet another chance to acknowledge my privilege and to do better in helping to build a more inclusive society in whatever way.

This particular piece employs both dark and solemn colors as well as shades that contrast this. Over time, I have been able to better understand the role color plays in conveying emotions and in this particular case, color works to bring out the duality of a dark reality and that of a hopeful future, a future borne out of this downtime everyone has been forced into — a future that prioritizes humanity.

This has been a period of self-reflection — to try and understand what kind of world I’d like to live in, to deeply value and treasure the already beautiful and meaningful connections I have managed to build with people I care for and finally, to always hope.

Camilo Huinca: Santiago, Chile

Credit: Camilo Huinca

“I have always needed social interaction with my close ones to feed on experiences, knowledge, love.”

Camilo Huinca

Without a doubt, what is happening has been a new process for me. Although I have been working alone for several years from my workshop at home, I have always needed social interaction with my close ones to feed on experiences, knowledge, love.

My work allows me to produce remotely. Each project in which I am a part, is born and develops at great distances and in different countries. So digital communication is something I’ve always used.

The piece I made is a portrait of my last weeks and how social networks have become our best tool for me and my close ones, to nourish ourselves with ideas, inspiration and above all, feel others a little closer.

Rocio Egio: Lausanne, Switzerland

Credit: Rocio Egio

“These days I have taken a step back, stopped reacting and reconnected.”

Rocio Egio

Happiness is being proud of what you do every day. These days I have taken a step back, stopped reacting and reconnected. By recalibrating towards the simple positives, I am centered in who I am, on my own, alone. I have the power, it all depends on me, creativity is within me. No travels, hosting people over diner, or dance classes required. All I need is to look out the window to stimulate MY creativity. Just me, the little details of my confined life and my art.

Kelly Wanjira Kinyua: Nairobi, Kenya

Credit: Wanjira Kinyua

“We’re all in this together. We’re all going through the same thing. We really need to protect ourselves and the other people around us.”

Kelly Wanjira Kinyua

The picture is inspired by my daily commute to work during the pandemic. Matatus and boda bodas (public minibuses and motorcycle taxis) are an essential part of transportation for the majority of Kenyans. The Government’s measures of controlling the spread of the disease include the reduction of the amount of passengers in matatus. Matatu operators are also required to provide sanitizers or disinfectants to passengers as they board the matatus. Passengers on the other hand, have to wear masks to avoid catching or spreading the virus. We’re all in this together. We’re all going through the same thing. We really need to protect ourselves and the other people around us.

Kashmira Sarode: Bangalore, India

Credit: Kashmira Sarode

“This co-living situation has kept us sane in these unprecedented times.”

Kashmira Sarode

I am extremely lucky that I am at home with my husband and a couple of friends along with their three year old. My friends recently moved here and were in search of an apartment when the lockdown suddenly started and ended up living with us.

We have begun to live like a joint family, cooking meals together, dividing chores and taking care of the child and each other. We have divided the house into office area and play area where all of us disperse to after breakfast only to reconvene at dinner post work. While we miss our actual families and can see them only via video calls, this co-living situation has kept us sane in these unprecedented times.

Elen Winata: Singapore

Credit: Elen Winata

“This difficult time shines light on the good in people.”

Elen Winata

In Singapore, life is temporarily on hold to contain the spread of the virus. Businesses are closed, roads are empty and the hustle and bustle of city life is no more. However, the community feels more connected than ever with everyone looking out for each other. Volunteer groups who host health checkups, community-led food donation drives, businesses who produce masks to be given away, people who donate their skills through streaming classes so that those at home can retain a sense of normalcy — this difficult time shines light on the good in people. At the end of the day, we are all small pieces of a puzzle set trying our best to paint the big picture.

Olivié Keck: Cape Town, South Africa

Credit: Olivie Keck

“Having to adjust has been difficult. However, I have found sanctuary in the act of making.”

Olivié Keck

I’m lucky to have a creative outlet to occupy my mind and provide distraction from the global anxiety and speculation of this distressing time. It was strange to have a digital opening of my new exhibition, “In Bloom,” devoid of the social gathering and congratulations that a traditional opening satisfies. Having to adjust has been difficult. However, I have found sanctuary in the act of making. The escapism of creating helps stabilize and relax me because the action is so moment to moment.

Wilfrid Wood: London, England

Credit: Wilfrid Wood

“It would be wonderful if the world slowed down a bit after this.”

Wilfrid Wood

I’ve sculpted a self-portrait, as if I’ve just got up — hair tousled with a receding hairline, red nose, wrinkles, my melting face feeling the effects of gravity. It’s made from Plasticine after its been in the oven for a few minutes when its nice and warm and squidgy. You get accidental smears and dents all over the surface. It’s a lovely simple material to use, the colors are soft, its immediate and quick… the only thing is, it doesn’t last. The portrait will gradually warp and fall apart, as will I. It’s an interesting task to really look at yourself, and of course there’s a centuries old tradition of artists doing self portraits. I’ve tried to confront myself without vanity, but also not making myself look like a total tramp out of a sort of self-deprecation.

I find social distancing pretty sad. I’m longing to spend an evening with friends, or go to the West End on a packed bus. As an artist, people are my subject and fascination. I don’t want art to be only seen online. My work, most artists work, is a physical thing, especially sculpture. So I want to have shows, go to parties, draw strangers.

It would be wonderful if the world slowed down a bit after this. A bit less consuming and driving and flying. I bet it won’t though. We’ll heat up the planet until we melt.

The artist statements have been edited for length and clarity.

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