Launched in early March, our "Looking Out from Lockdown" art competition was a way to bring a bit of joy and creativity to the hard yards of lockdown - a way to acknowledge the difficulties or unexpected joys of social isolation, however we personally experienced it.
With dozens of brilliant entries, choosing winners in each category was never going to be easy. Thanks to everyone who took the time to enter; you’ve cheered and challenged us in equal measure over the past month. It’s brightened our social media feeds and given us something to look forward to each day.
Our judges have pondered over the artistic merits of your work, and how closely it fits the theme, to arrive at a decision. Here are the winners and runners-up in each category:
Judge Kevin said: "I thought this was a well-painted and powerful image that a lot of people will relate to. Over the past year, many of us have sat with our head in our hands at some point due to loneliness, isolation, frustration, stress, job uncertainty, homeschooling pressures - or a range of other issues. This picture also brought to mind keyworkers who are exhausted after working long hours in very difficult conditions. It's got both artistic merit and it nails the brief."
Judge Kevin said: "I felt that this one met the theme in a positive way. The social bubbles highlight the things we have enjoyed and missed out on, but show that we've maintained a connectedness. It's full of happiness and hope for coming out of lockdown. A colourful, fun and well-drawn image."
Read Declan's poem here (it's too long to publish on the page!).
Judge Ian F said: "I think I was particularly drawn to Declan's work by his clever use of form and shape on the page. The juxtaposition of his wild travels, moving freely from place to place, being almost drunk on freedom, was well-expressed as the lines skidded across the page. There is a real sense of friendship, abandon and a devil-may-care attitude that we all must surely miss; it screams of freedom! The move to the more restricted, yet still free, verse was a clever construct that clipped both the shape on the page, and the ideas and thoughts being conveyed. The sense of loss was powerfully expressed. Well-judged short and single word phrases seemed to me to suggest the art of conversation is being slowly eroded, as we not only lack the face to face contact that encourages free flowing interactions, but we are also missing the stories that are the fuel to the fire of human interaction. The hopeful ending is well-judged. Just as the opening lines drop us into the friends' mad night out, we are sent on our way with an unfinished sense of better times ahead."
Dry hands are a small price to pay for being healthy,
she says, and though I know it’s completely logical,
I cannot help but feel lost, pressing my fingertips together,
lining up my palms. Soft hands were a point of pride
before they became a commodity, a rare pleasure,
after a plate-of-peas-worth of lotion and that still-wet
feeling even after it’s all gone. I’m used to dry elbows,
dry heels, dry ankles blistered over from wearing no
socks in uncomfortable shoes - but my hands are
untouchable, though pointedly, incredibly touchable.
He used to hold my hand just so he could run his fingers
across the soft skin of my knuckles, and she used to
stroke the backs of my hands idly in thought. The soap
has turned the lines of tree bark up my fingers white,
and touch is chalky and sad. But she isn’t wrong, and
I know it, too. If I had to choose between dry hands
and wheezing, unbreathing lungs, well it’s not much
of a choice at all. And it never really was one, either.
Judge Ian F said: "I really liked the intense close up on the hands. We use our hands in so many ways, and in recent times, they have been made to feel like criminals, passing on this dreadful virus. As a symbol for simple actions that save lives, the focus on hand washing is something with which we can all identify. There is a sense of a hectoring voice in the opening lines, which to me seemed to be then echoed in the memories of kinder times, when hands were points of loving contact. The drying skin, and hardening of the hands, seemed to me to symbolise the harshness of being seperated from those we love. We have taken the ability to use our hands to express care, love and concern for granted I feel, and this clever poem reminds us that whilst we need to suffer this pain for now, those other, more joyous, times will return."
Judge Ian S said: "Helen has captured fantastic mood in this image: the mist creates drama in contrast to the darker trees that offer great depth. The portrait subject offers a sense of scale and I like how she is looking up in wonder, perhaps at the way out, and into the light."
Judge Ian S said: "Layla has carefully composed her shot and used the foliage as a great frame. The shallow focus leads us to the inscription, and we can't help but wonder and imagine about the departed. The soft colours and low angle help work really well in the carefully-thought-through image."
Of the competition, VP Chief Executive Rae Tooth said: "Fostering curiosity, creativity and tenacity is what we're all about. Those attributes have come through strongly in the amazingly diverse artwork you've submitted, whether you're on the Villiers Park programme or not.
Watching for the daily Art Competition post has become a ritual for me over the past few weeks - I feel sad that it's ended! I've loved seeing the many ways that you've interpreted the theme, some focussing on the privations and losses of Covid-19, others celebrating new discoveries or looking hopefully into the future. I think we've all felt a mix of conflicting emotions over the past year and it's been helpful for me and others to see those expressed in art.
Thank you for brightening and challenging our social media feeds with your work. Thanks to those that have been able to support us with a donation. And thanks especially to our partners whose prizes will have motivated many of you to enter."
We’ve enjoyed running this competition so much that there’s every chance we’ll be back next year. Watch this space - and keep creating!