An art exhibition showcasing ‘bright and bold’ paintings and collages conceived in the confines of lockdown and isolation, launches this week at the John Bunyan Museum.
‘Spectrum – Perspectives on Colour and Form’, is Bedford artist Sophie Bennett’s first solo exhibition. It runs from 1-11 September at the Basement at Bunyan and is accompanied by a series of art workshops for children and adults.
Regarding the lockdown inspired work, Sophie, 35, said: “It’s a selection of painting and collages that are kind of a response to how I was feeling at the time and trying to find some meaning in the madness that was going on around us.”
The brightly coloured artwork is subconsciously inspired by the rainbows that brought hope during lockdown. It’s an exploration of ‘seeing light and hope amidst challenging times.’
The three children’s workshops take place this week and are a great option for parents looking for something to do in the last week of the holidays. All three workshops are drop-ins, so there’s no need to book. They cost £5.
Children’s sessions cover:
- Collage workshop Wed 1 September 11am – 3pm. Using different collage techniques and incorporating recycled materials.
- Rainbow workshop 3 September 11am – 3pm. Looking at the rainbow as an image of positivity amongst everything and embracing the colour.
There will also be a mixed media adult workshop on Saturday 11 September.
Sophie feels art, “allows children to explore a different part of their personality.”
She said: “Doing art can often unlock something, an interest or a skill that you didn’t know was there.
“And I think it can be really relaxing for people and get you to focus in on something which then enables you to forget other things that are going on.
“Hopefully there’ll be opportunities for us to work together, do a bit of team work, collaborate as well, which is obviously another great skill for children to learn.
“And it just really builds confidence, I think, to be able to create something that you can then visually see in front of you and feel proud of and show other people.”
The exhibition was meant to run a couple of years ago but was postponed, due to Covid. The work presented now, evolved into something very different.
Sophie said: “I think like all of us we were all feeling very isolated and quite low at times and the paintings and collages are very bright and colourful and I think subconsciously were influenced by all the rainbow things that were going on. Everyone was putting rainbows up in their windows. So they’re [the artwork] very bright and colourful and I hope quite cheerful to look at.”
Sophie, who usually works in acrylics, found the pandemic changed the way she worked. She said: “I normally work in a studio environment and I suddenly found myself working on my living room table with very limited materials.”
For the collages, she repurposed old paintings, “sort of tearing them up and using them in different ways.” She incorporated bits of recycling, old envelopes, bits of packaging and learnt how to fuse old plastic bags together as collage material.
The workshops will feature some of the techniques and ideas Sophie used in her own work during lockdown. She hopes this “enables people to feel, whilst they’re doing their own artwork, more connected to the exhibition.”
Interestingly, her paintings became much bigger once she was allowed back into the studio. She said: “they’re really big, much bigger than I’ve ever worked with before. And I think just sort of show a burst of trapped energy on the canvas. I hope when people look at the paintings they feel a sense of freedom again. That’s kind of how they feel to me when I look at them.”
Good for the soul
‘Trapped energy’ is a key element in Sophie’s work. She said: “For me, it’s a way of channelling trapped energy into something positive and productive.”
Sophie believes this has also been a factor in why so many people took up creative activities during the pandemic. She said: “It’s a means of escapism. And I think often we’re quite wrapped up in our thoughts. Sometimes if you can put things on paper and you can see the thing that you’ve created, it can just be really good for, without sounding cheesy, good for the soul.”
She added: “That physical connection to the materials and just sort of getting lost in the process and then sort of a period of time can pass where you think ‘oh gosh, I’ve not thought about anything else for half an hour’, or ‘I thought I’d only do this for 5 minutes and I’m still here two hours later and I feel really involved and really lost in it.”
Arts for all
Sophie is a Bedford-based artist and Inclusive Arts Practitioner working with children, young people and adults with additional needs across Bedford and Milton Keynes. She has ten years experience in community-based arts, often working with ‘Youth Inspired’, Miton Keynes Art Gallery and ‘Arts for Health’ in Milton Keynes.
She said: “Whilst this exhibition is kind of me alone as an individual artist, it was really important to me that I brought the workshops in as a sort of a participatory element and as a celebration of being able to work alongside people again.”
For artist Sophie Bennet’s Instagram, visit here.