Marian Moratinos

I Will Fly

Mallorcan artist Marian Moratinos (Palma, 1973) has lived in London since 2008. She has lived through the hardest months of the pandemic in the British capital, as well as the bizarre handling of the crisis by Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The months of lockdown have enabled her to create her Confinement Series “as a mental survival therapy”, surrounded by nature and silence.    

What has your experience of the whole pandemic situation been like in London? Initially I felt a great deal of anxiety and concern, and my head was more in Mallorca than here. Whilst the government in Spain was declaring the state of emergency and putting the army on the streets, here schools and pubs were still open. We were told to simply carry on going to work as normal (by tube!) because nearly all of us were going to get infected anyway. I had never felt as vulnerable as that before, trapped in a a kind of lab rat situation, in a fake normality. I decided to shut myself up at home two weeks before the British government first “recommended” staying at home and then imposed compulsory lockdown. Afterwards I felt better about it and generally speaking, my experience of the whole situation has been pretty calm.

In Spain, many people see the Prime Minister Boris Johnson as a buffoon. What is your opinion of how he has handled the crisis? That perception is absolutely correct. He likes to cultivate his image as a comical populist, but that is merely a strategy - the funny face of the people who are running his party. He would make a good actor, but he’s in over his head when it comes to leading the country during a crisis like this. His patter has delivered him the votes to move forward with Brexit, but that isn’t enough to fight a pandemic. All governments have made mistakes, but Johnson wasn’t taken by surprise and could have reacted much sooner, he has been lagging two steps behind the entire time. The ambiguous messages and his attitude haven’t transmitted gravity or concern, just confusion. I have found his management of the crisis to be bizarre from beginning to end. The figures speak for themselves.

What was the atmosphere in the capital like, amongst Londoners? With the exception of the start of the crisis, when the supermarkets were emptied, there has been a strange feeling of normality. The streets have been very quiet and in general people have adapted to the new rules with ease. The air was much cleaner and you could hear the birds much more. There has been an increase in empathy and community spirit, towards neighbours and the elderly. And the lockdown wasn’t as strict as it was in Spain – there were no timetables or impositions, just “recommendations”. It has been easy to deal with, and even pleasant for many people. I think there will be more of a problem now, with the easing, when it seems that many people have already forgotten everything.

Where in London do you live, and what is your work space like? I live in the district of Chingford, in North East London, right where the city ends and Epping Forest starts – a historic, protected woodland and the biggest green space in London. It’s 5 minutes from home and from my window I can see the street opposite, some houses and trees in the garden, where we are visited by squirrels, hedgehogs, foxes, tons of birds and the occasional small deer. I am fortunate enough to have the room I use as a studio for doing “table” work in the house, and for larger jobs I go to print things at a print workshop. Immediately before the lockdown I had time to go and buy paper, ink, an exposure lamp and a power hose with pressure washer which I fitted into the bath. Using that, and a little patience, I improvised a mini silk screen printing studio at home.

Your Confinement Series have emerged over this time. The lockdown has enabled me to focus in a strange and spontaneous way. Ironically, I have perceived a freedom that I hadn’t felt for some time, and enjoyed the possibility of creating without all the everyday limitations. The series emerged as a mental survival therapy, and I have focussed them from a very playful and introspective perspective, almost like a selfish game that has kept me apart from the surreal situation we found ourselves in. The tranquillity, the silence, the sounds and the walks in the woods have been very stimulating, and the series were initially inspired by that immersion in nature which I have been able to enjoy on a daily basis. I was also obsessed by my continuous desire to be able to fly again. I haven’t been coping at all well with the closing of borders or the uncertainty of knowing when I will be able to go to “my other island”. The birds, planes and floating figures that appear almost as an illustration in I Will Fly speak to all that, to some extent.

What do you feel is the role of art and the artist in situations like the one it has been our lot to live through? More than ever, we have seen how cultural exchange is a key communication tool and a need for expression at times of trauma; it has kept us emotionally close, when we were far away from one another in actual distance, and we have sought refuge in books, music and films. Artists or creators have brought their own version of an unprecedented reality, contributing to the documentation of a historical, political and social period that is very difficult to assimilate and explain.

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