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Imogen Marooney: An Artist in Lockdown

28th Oct 2020

We spoke 2019 Platform winner, Imogen Marooney on how the pandemic has had an impact on her as an artist.  Here is what Imogen had to say:

So, You’ve Got those Lockdown Zoom Blues

Lockdown experience has been difficult and often unproductive, when we think we should be more productive than ever and I think that it is important we address it not as an excuse, but with compassion towards ourselves and an understanding that this has been a trying, tiring and worrisome time and it’s ok to feel that. It has affected each individual person differently and I shall mention a little of my experience in the hope that for artists and all people alike, you feel the comforting understanding that you are not alone in your situation.

My basic physical problem is that I have no personal space to work in. This, from my experience of talking to other artists, is a fundamental problem. A place to work and I mean quite literally to work, because for many of us this is a livelihood and the activity which makes us truly happy. Without this space, I could not find the peace and clarity to make and mess up, to spread my wings. In the end I stretched my bat wings and found myself up in the late hours of the night working on my projects by the light of the moon; this messed up my sleeping pattern but gave me clarity to work. It was a sacrifice that I made, but I should have balanced my time better.

The other issue I have faced is technology, namely Zoom. I find technology like this draining, but while saying this I understand it is absolutely necessary and important for me. I find it all the more interesting that I have talked to many people through this medium, people I do not often see regularly; it is almost as if we are making up for the physical distance by increasing our online social interactions, expending more social energy while socially distancing. But as an introvert, I understand a lot about social energy and find it strange that I am being offered many opportunities to use my social energy when my normal energy is at an all- time low. Balancing these demands and chatting to good friends on phone calls is what I have found truly relieving. 

Make and it Will Have Been Made

Deadlines. A horrible word but to my subconscious a time to thrive! I think this is what I was missing in lockdown, progress in my art, a very purposefully reason to make something, and when I was offered a window exhibition at the Aspace artist studio The Hidden Wardrobe I was so delighted!

What to do?… what to do?… well I think the answer to this is to look around you and say ‘what have I got around me?’ and I had old bed sheets, many of them, and a lovely silk screen which I had not used; I had needle and thread and a sewing machine that needed a bit of love blown back into it and a story about Lonely God, a new character in my life, and I wanted to explore them together. So, I made A Jacket for Lonely God.

A ceremonial jacket for Lonely God, an unreal character of great importance, and because Lonely God can’t put it on himself, because he is too Godly, Lonely God has never worn it. 

Made with old bedsheets and quilted with a tailor’s herringbone stitch removed in normal tailoring, this jacket embraces the hidden skill of the tailor. It is finished with my newly learnt historical sewing techniques, such as removable sleeves tied on with ribbon with an underarm gap following the tradition of kimonos. Also, the use of felling throughout, a historical sewing technique of trimming and wrapping the seam within itself, finished the jacket off beautifully with no raw seams and a smooth finish. Luxury for a God

It was lovely to sew again, something I had not done for a long time seriously. It was refreshing, something I could take at a steady pace and perfect for lockdown, especially hand sewing, as it can be done anywhere without much need for space and the fabric can be folded away neatly and not take up too much room. This project has rekindled my passion for textiles.

As we came out of lockdown, I met friends again who filled me with energy. This is very strange thing for an introvert to understand as our depleted energy reserves are often refilled by being on our own. I felt much happier. Especially when I was able to go back to my local print studio and I wanted to celebrate all these people, and the first thing I could think of to celebrate was their names, so for the left window I created A Curled Celebration of Everyone: 

These difficult times remind me and Lonely God of good people who are all around us; I wanted them to know that I and Lonely God care and have made these prints for them. Names and pronouns captured in mono-screen-print hang from the ceiling curling to the floor, brightly coloured and all individual; this is the beginning of my celebration of everyone.


Putting Myself Forward

I now need to put myself out there in a much more forward way. When I write this, it makes me feel as though I am working contrary to my own instincts, but I am trying to reason with myself that this can be done in a gentle way. My current residency of Oxford and Oxfordshire is where I want to build my confidence and profile and I think this will hopefully start with a few emails; in fact, I wrote a brave one out of the blue one last night! Baby steps. Let us hope this leads on to more…

My current projects are still only in my mind, but I hope to start a small artist book/zine publication, nothing too neat, all rough and ready and I want it to be tactile. I think this is the perfect thing to do in Lockdown times, as we could all use real art in our lives and it shouldn’t have to come at the cost of our wallets or health, so I am hoping I can bring it into our homes. If possible, I would love this to be a collaboration with many, but this will require more planning.

My other current thoughts are about reusing old textiles, such as my bedsheets, in my projects to promote the use of reused material and also to use wool. These thoughts came with my researching historical sewing techniques and I was inspired by how they treated their fabric as a precious commodity due to its prized nature, and encouraged its reuse wherever possible. Wool, too, is the most wonderful material and was used to its fullest extent in the past and it has overwhelming benefits which we, as a world, could truly benefit from. It’s biodegradable, environmentally friendly, breathable, local to the UK and there are so many small-scale producers all over who need our support more than ever. For the moment I will support this industry by purchasing yarn and doing some crochet, but I cannot wait to explore this material further. 

You can see The Hidden Wardrobe at Old Northam Road, from 9th October – 29th November or on the Aspace Facebook page here.


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