In the third article of the current season of isolARTion, Lillias said this about the objects she had painted: “I noticed that quite a few seem to suggest ‘holding things together’ – what we are all trying to do, no doubt!” As part of her contribution to IsolARTion, Lillias suggested we set up a competition. Members and Friends of the Society were invited to submit a watercolour illustrating their idea of “holding things together”. In addition to the painting, we also asked each artists to give us a little story about their piece.

Lillias was sent all the entries and stories. This is what she sent back:

I didn’t look at any names and went straight for the images first and then the words as it is really the former that must ‘speak’ first. All of them rang true when I read the personal stories behind them.  Very moving. I have decided on 2 winners.

Winner 1: Colourful connections by Helen Otter

What Lillias said:

This speaks to me of the mass of things going on in cyberspace that we have been so lucky to have (contact with loved ones this year, keeping in touch with the outside world etc).. It also speaks to me about the complications of the whole pandemic – all the different scenarios, approaches and statistics … which I hope will not be picked over too much in retrospect….but they will be. It’s also visually exciting and well painted.

Helen’s story:

During our exhibition at Wells Maltings last year I was drawn to the computer server in the back room. The coloured connectors seemingly random and organic against the geometry and order of the box, obviously connecting important things and keeping everything together. It reminds me of a brain, or a heart, mystifyingly complex and central to keeping everything working. During first lockdown, when physical connections were restricted and our connections to others have relied on computers and technology, I found this computer server a suitable muse, and I was able to lose myself in painting the order and repetition of the columns and rows and then in painting the flowing lines of the labyrinth of wires. I used a photograph, but did play around with the wires …. here’s hoping I didn’t artistically, disconnect something important!

Winner 2: Holding things together by Vandy Massey

What Lillias said:

 I found this enchanting and moving. The fact that the beauty was all hidden away as we have been – the fact that we are waiting to open up…… very symbolic ….we can’t wait to burst forth again and appreciate lovely things for real. We all love opening things and the contrast between the drab paper bag and what is inside….. innovative and well done

Vandy’s story of her painting/bookbinding entry:

Through the lockdowns of the past year, our garden has helped us hold it together. With less activity in the garden through the cold winter months, the flowering of spring bulbs gave us so much pleasure. I started thinking about the way the pandemic has changed life and how to convey that in one piece of artwork. These are the elements:

  •  I chose to enclose the painting behind covers because we have all been secluded.
  • The covers are constructed from a brown paper bag because ordinary and going food shopping has helped us hold it together.
  • A piece of dogwood from the spring tidying up and garden string create the binding, showing two elements of our winter garden we have appreciated.
  • The painting unfolds in time with the development of the leaves and then the blooms of the daffodils, showing our growing anticipation of better things to come.
  • Turning the page to reveal the final image juxtaposes the winter image of buried bulbs (pent up potential in the bleakness of winter lockdown) against the cut daffodil flowers held together with the garden string (the relief of warmer weather and the anticipation of garden visits with our loved ones).

Entries in order of arrival

A methodical worker by Linda Purdy

During lockdown it’s been so good, for me, to have ‘studio time’. My husband has also spent a lot of time in his workshop which is next door. He seems to spend many an hour taking things apart and (hopefully) putting them back together. The attached was something I did for fun which seemed to depict parts that presumably hold something together, his hobby and my hobby, both of which are our personal means of ‘holding things together’ in these unusual times!

Holding it Together by Clare Powell

Holding things together or putting life in a stranglehold?   The watercolour painting of rope and sapling was made in response to the ambivalent feelings experienced in lockdown.   The snow, which is at once smothering and protective, creates a negative space of potential for the new life that will be revealed once the thaw finally arrives.

COVID Symbolism – keeping it all together by Mel Collins

I have had this idea for an abstract for a while. During Lockdown 3, my phone has been vital for:

  • checking in daily to the NHS Covid App
  • linking me to family and friends via zoom and Facetime
  • receiving daily videos of my new grandson growing up so quickly
  • googling recipes for marmalade, cakes and biscuits
  • listening to catch-up on the BBC Sounds App and downloading some Podcasts
  • using google maps when I get lost on my walks
  • trying to find those awkward two-letter words to ‘virtually’ beat my sister at Scrabble
  • ordering home deliveries of food and drink from Ocado
  • reminding myself of the rules of the old-fashioned Monopoly set and finding new card and dice games to play
  • researching some special relaxing tea!

I wanted this abstract to represent all of this and to be viewed as a series overlapping objects with the eye going around the painting falling on the different components. I hoped viewers might relate to some of the elements in the abstract in terms of their own experiences.

 Holding things together by Patricia Stoten

During my lockdown daily walks I often go through an old apple orchard. The last few remaining apples are still clinging on to the almost  bare branches and the birds are still feasting on them. It gives me a wonderful feeling of calm which helps me to Hold things together .

The things she left behind by Lori Bentley

During multiple lockdowns, my youngest daughter comes home for extended visits. She is an ebullient, extrovert, and it is always fun having her at home. But eventually lockdowns ease and she goes off to resume her life in her shared accommodation in a university town. Each time she manages to leave behind a few items and they are like the ghosts of her presence in the house. I recently helped her move from a flat to a house and the most common items found under the bed or behind bookshelves are hair pins, hair ties and piercing accessories. When she left my house after her latest long visit, these were also the items that she left behind. They literally hold things together, but they are also reminders of the joy of her company. And it is her company that sometimes helps me keep things together.

The old tool shed by Scilla Devenish

This is my painting depicting holding things together in the corner of the old tool shed at The Lost Gardens of Heligan. These gardens hold together pre-1st world war horticulture with today’s.  We visited here with our grandchildren last summer and we were intrigued by this old tool shed.

The Old Rudder- still holding on by Chris Wright

The painting depicts strength, endurance and resilience even in decay and still has the ability to steer- After a lifetime of service to its owners and crew, the Thames barge rudder is still holding things together. It’s a testimony to the craftsmanship and natural products after such a long period of time. The photograph that inspired the painting was taken at Maldon between lockdown one and lockdown two.

Holding Things Together by Phyl McGrath

It seems to me that what holds this picture together are the washes, warm and cool!
Starting with a pale wash of crimson and viridian and building up with various shades of paint. Like humans – we are all built up from multi layers of experience. COVID has added another layer due to maybe isolation, sickness, bereavement, environmentally, educationally, economically or other reasons.

Holding things together by Helen Clarke

The  flowers represent individuals and as a bunch, the different groups we are part of and how the pandemic has affected us all in various ways. It has been de-stabilising and released many mixed emotions. The string is trying to enfold each one of us, as some flowers are struggling to keep their shape, whilst others are moving chaotically in every direction. Organisations, such as the NHS, have supported us in a practical way and we have all had to find our own string in order to find a way of holding it together. For me, the string represents the creativity of painting and the inner calm it brings.

Holding things together- First signs of spring by Sarah Mcgonigle

I was inspired by the theme of Holding it Together, as this is what lots of us have struggled to do during this tough year of lockdowns. I am always amazed at the delicacy but resilience of the tiny snowdrops to come back again year after year, heralding the arrival of spring. The little posy of snowdrops tied gently with string, seemed the perfect subject for me to put paint to paper for the first time in a year, given my love of botanical style painting, reminding me of the determination of these hardy little bulbs.

Thank you

Many thanks to Lillias for thinking up this competition, taking the time to judge and generously sponsoring the prizes. The two winners were invited to choose a limited edition print from Lillias’s A-Z collection. In addition to supporting our Society through her patronage and keen interest, Lillias supports other artists through the Artist’s Support Pledge, so if you enjoy her work, support her and other artists by purchasing an original or print. Or if you like the work created by any of the contributing artists, contact us and we will put you in touch with them.