Art for Life, an Arts Council Collection National Partners Programme Exhibition at Firstsite, Colchester, is the result of a number of workshops with artists and people on the frontline of the health and care sectors. These workshops provided a space to examine their experiences of the pandemic and the effect this significant moment in our collective history has had on their lives. The exhibition features specially-selected loans from the Arts Council Collection, a variety of pieces made by the key workers who took part in the workshops alongside NHS art psychotherapists (who generously gave up their time to support the sessions), as well as contributions from artists affected by the COVID-19 virus.
The wide range of works in Art for Life offer a creative record of this time and reflect many of the shared experiences of life under lockdown - the appreciation of nature, importance of family and community, and the longing for human touch. Three selected photographs from the series Where We Belong (2017) by featured artist Alejandra Carles-Tolra most strongly demonstrate the collective longing to return to a time when we could safely hold hands and hug one another.
Alejandra Carles-Tolra is a visual artist and educator from Barcelona, currently based in London. She is interested in the relationship between individual and group identity, and the way in which these may influence one another. Where We Belong (2017) is a body of work exploring themes of belonging, femininity and escapism through members of the Jane Austen Pineapple Society. The artist spent over two years working with the society, who share a passion for the 19th century author, defining themselves as Janeites and coming together at special events to recite Austen’s work while wearing Regency-style costumes.