Making art in lockdown: ‘dream-like, paradoxical experience of time’

Ben Sheppard is participating in RMIT Gallery’s online exhibition The new (ab)normal. RMIT intern Kate Tranter asked him about his experience in lockdown.

What’s it like living at home in Melbourne as an artist, has it changed a lot recently?

Things for me have changed quite a bit – although compared to many I have been well insulated from the worst of it. I’m in the middle of writing up my PhD and the change of routines combined with home-schooling two young children makes that near impossible. The upside is that making work (drawing) is not impossible, especially alongside the kids as their various learning tasks turn into ‘drawn’ responses.

How are you keeping yourself busy in lockdown? Do have the space to complete work where you are living?

I’m very fortunate in my stage of practice (and life) in that I have re-established a (very) small drawing studio at my home in Brunswick and can pop out to it during the unpredictable, interstitial moments in the day. I teach into the undergrad program at RMIT from that space also. From its window I look out through the foliage of our lemon tree. On sunny days, the north facing red brick wall behind reflects a warming light that seems to top up the feeble warmth given by my tiny electric heater.

Can you describe your everyday lockdown routine to us, does it change?

I tend to start the day early. I walk the dog and sometimes pop to the shops before it gets busy. Most days are spent home schooling and running the house while squeezing in moments of reading, drawing, responding to student’s emails and running online tutorials. If I’m lucky, I might catch something interesting to listen to online while drawing in the studio in between the relentlessness of the rest of it.

What aspects as an artist that you enjoy about being lockdown, if any?

While missing all of the things that you would expect, I have enjoyed a strange new appreciation for the dream-like, paradoxical experience of time in this version of isolation. I’m not sure I can put words around it yet but suspect there will be a waking up moment when I’ll say to myself, “well that was all a bit surreal…”.

If you could go back and give yourself one piece of advice before any of this began what would you say?

Take more books home from your office library!!

By Kate Tranter
Bachelor of Communication (Public Relations), RMIT
WIL internship with RMIT Culture

The New (ab)normal closes online on 28 August 2020.


News17 Jun 2020

The new (ab)normal: Artists respond to COVID-19

From creating art in a high-rise dwelling to managing social isolation, RMIT Gallery’s first online exhibition provides a glimpse into how artists are responding to their circumstances under COVID-19.  …