Bread or Fresh Air
‘Poor people who were feeling the pinch thought still more nostalgically of towns and villages in the near-by countryside, where bread was cheap and life without restrictions. Indeed, they had a natural if illogical feeling that they should have been permitted to move out to these happier places. The feeling was embodied in a slogan shouted in the streets and chalked up on walls: "Bread or fresh air!"’
'The Plague’ by Albert Camus
My work is grounded in graphic communication and the artwork in this exhibition was generated as a response to the pandemic restrictions imposed between January and March 2021.
"Bread or fresh air!" is taken from ‘The Plague’ by Albert Camus and refers to the contradictions, felt by the confined townspeople, to leave the city despite knowing they would carry the disease with them.
Documenting the evening meal became a signifier to an uncertain reality. Each plate was licked clean and recorded with a black and white photograph, marking the passing of time much as a prisoner scores lines on the wall of their cell.
The work aims to address the cognitive dissonance experienced through imposed restraints and explores where comfort and hope are found in troubled times.
Each meal was documented with a black and white photograph and recorded on a spreadsheet noting the date and type of meal. Only three days are absent.
As the meals accumulated the imperative to create a typology arose. Corresponding with the advent of spring, and the relaxation of restrictions, the inclusion of colour became both a necessity and a desire for better times.
Initiated in 2018, the series of ‘Concrete’ digital collages predate the pandemic. Originally, also in black and white, they drew on the concept of an alienating, dystopian future gaining further significance as it merged with the realities of the lockdown. This cumulated in ‘Concrete: Balcony Bubble’, where the freedom cry of “Bread or fresh air!” takes on a new significance.
Gillian Fielden Dec 2021