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Covid Creativity in Chineham - How Art is Flourishing under Lockdown

Everyone is aware that the COVID pandemic has been disastrous for lives, livelihoods, mental health and business throughout the country. However, for some artists, there have been distinctly silver linings. Lockdown has given time for many to explore new artistic avenues, whilst new audiences are taking an interest. Chineham residents may have spotted the windows of the old post office in Chineham Shopping Centre - once vacant, the space is now remodelled as a gallery / exhibition space, and full of colourful art. Although closed in lockdown, art can still be viewed through the gallery windows, bought remotely and collected by appointment with centre management.

The Covid crisis meant the cancellation of art fairs and has impacted on many artists who rely on these events to showcase their work. However, Kate Winskill recognised that the plethora of empty premises on the high street offered an opportunity to bring original artwork to the wider public.

The Pop Up Gallery Emerges: As an artist & owner of gallery 1of1design in London, Kate has considerable experience in both making & selling art. Kate believes "The great majority of people like things of colour and interest on their walls - especially in lockdown when we spend time staring at the same walls - but only a minority will ever venture into a gallery or art fair to buy original art. There is more to affordable art than mass produced Ikea prints!"

She has seized upon the availability of empty high street shops and recognised the opportunity they offer to artists to extend the reach of their work. Her first venture into pop up galleries was in January 2020 in Kingston in Surrey. Since this initial venture, Kate has gone on to organise temporary pop up galleries across the south east in Bournemouth, Winchester, Letchworth and Banbury. The Chineham Pop Gallery has been the most recent pop up to open, starting just before the November lockdown.

“We have also been fortunate to work with some fantastic retail management teams, particularly at Chineham Shopping Centre. They have been very open to supporting artists and have really seen the benefits of having colourful contemporary art filling windows, which would otherwise be depressingly empty. And its not literally ‘window dressing’, the venture has helped to provide real income to freelancers badly hit by Covid”, says Kate.

An artist herself, Kate Winskill works with a group of artists from all over the country to show a range of artwork in High St locations. At Chineham there is work by Raph Thomas, Yulia Robinson, Nataliya Zozulya and Kate Winskill. Art includes landscapes, colourful animals, graffiti penguins, abstract colour scapes and portraits. Prints start at £30 and originals at £40.

“The feedback from customers was fantastic - they felt it really offered something different to a High Street shopping experience, and because the shop was manned by the artists, it gave them a chance to engage with people to find out about the work they liked. Because management at Chineham are so helpful, we have been able to keep supplying our art. If you see something you like in the windows, call me on 07968 159138 and we can take payment by bank transfer or PayPal. We then arrange an appointment with the centre manager for the customer to collect. If someone is buying a big piece or several artworks, we can deliver free.”

“Most of the customers who have visited out pop up galleries have been surprised at how affordable original art can be. So if you are lucky enough to be in employment but can’t spend money on holidays, cheer up your walls! Our artists love producing art - that’s what motivates them and is what they really want to do. So they would rather sell their work than have it sitting in a storeroom. So we are happy to haggle too or take staged payments.”

Customers can also order prints for postal delivery. Check out colourful artwork by Raph Thomas, now showing his fabulous Blue Tiger at Chineham. He has several tigers on his website at www.raphthomasart.co.uk which would be great gifts for Chineham Tiger fans. You can email him on raphthomasart@gmail.com with queries. During lockdown, art is display in gallery windows at the Old Post Office, Chineham Shopping Centre, Basingstoke RG248BQ. Details on how to buy and Covid safe delivery are displayed on the windows or visit www.1of1design.co.uk to buy online.

Meet the Artists:

Kate Winskill: painter & digital collage artist, www.1of1design.co.uk, 07968 159138.

In recent years Kate Winskill has gone from designing and producing her own clothing and jewellery ranges for her gallery in Teddington, 1of1design, to completely focussing on painting and digital collage.

Says Kate "My work has completely changed during lockdown. I’ve always been interested in the human form but have become slightly obsessed with describing multiple figures moving, dancing, embracing. I am sure this has been a reaction to the isolation that Covid has imposed. In addition, the increase in time I can spend painting has led to greater experimentation- I am working on large sheets of paper, a cheaper material which means I work faster and more furiously- it’s less of a disaster if it all goes wrong!"

Raph Thomas: animal painter, www.raphthomasart.co.uk, 07815 943104

Raph Thomas paints joyous rainbow coloured animals on a variety of backgrounds, from flat colour to collage.

Says Raph “The warm weather in spring meant I could work outside on really large canvases, layering up paint surfaces. I like to use glue, sand, pools of water as well as different types of household and commercial paints, in my backgrounds. Living in a one bedroomflat makes it hard to work big, but I was able to put up a gazebo in a friend’s garden and work outside as we came out of the first lockdown, which was incredibly liberating."