On the branch of the trees in my garden hang clusters of fruit, swelling and ripe in the end, not one piece will remain. My mind turns to thoughts of death.
– 7thDalai Lama
I am cocooned by the silence, broken only by bird song. Every morning feels like a slow Sunday. I don’t have to be any place or do anything and there is no steady stream of studio visitors. Just an increase in phone calls and random video calls from friends I have not seen in a decade or more, who appear to have newly discovered technology.
When I head to the supermarket I’m aware that as a 55-year-old asthmatic I am in a high-risk group. If I were infected by the virus the odds are I’d be in bad shape or dead from pneumonia or organ failure. I feel anxious for my friends overseas and those newly returned and quarantined. I feel sorrow and dismay at the rising death toll of faceless strangers.
Strangers’ faces hold a central place in my painting practice. I collect old photographs and use them as source material to work with in various ways. Sometimes I paint from them and other times on them. No personal connection to an image allows for emotional distance. This painting, which I’ve called Love in the time of COVID 2020, features an old photo from the turn of the twentieth century, not one of my family but someone else’s long dead family.
I was thinking about Gabriel García Márquez Love in the Time of Cholera and the novel’s central themes of death and how death has many meanings.
Sharon Singer is an award-winning Dunedin-based visual artist. Her work is held in private and public collections in New Zealand and internationally. She has worked with fairy tales and myth as the subject of her paintings since 2000, invoking concerns such as narrative and meta-fictional awareness. In more recent years her work has addressed the themes of global warming, the Earth’s spiritual meaning and consumer value, either as a vast mystery or a source of consumable resources. Underpinning all is an interest in the human condition in relationship to nature. Her work has appeared in Landfall and takahē, as well as in Fairy Tales and the Art of Subversion (Routledge, New York, 2006), Liminal (The Caseroom Press, UK, 2008), The Painter as subversive storyteller (Jack Zipes, 2008), The Irresistible Fairy Tale: The Cultural and Social History of a Genre (Princeton University Press, 2012), Fairy Tales and Fables from Weimar Days (Hanover University Press, expanded bilingual edition 2016), Latin American Cinema: A Comparative History (University of California Press, 2016), Utopian Tales: Fairy Tales and Fables from Weimar Days (Palgrave Macmillan 2018) and more.