Is it just us or does it feel like 2021 has only January in it!  There’s no doubt many of us have a craving for something therapeutic right now, to help us through the slog of this month and another lockdown. With many things that we would normally turn to as our escape therapies not accessible at the moment, we take a look at where we can find that escape, where and how art fits into all of this, and as a society are we missing it?

Although art is fascinating and beautiful, this isn’t all that it is. What we are missing during these times of restriction is what it does for us and what it allows us to do: discovering something new, visiting a gallery, talking to others about it, being emotionally moved, being reminded of something special to us and sharing it with friends and family.  It isn’t the art on its own – it is the connections it enables and the emotions it stimulates that we are all missing.

History tells us that people used art to connect with each other right back to the early cave paintings some 34,000 years ago, communicating faith and documenting life.

And we know from scientific research that looking at a piece of beautiful art activates the brain’s neurons and increases blood flow.  Guess what – this is the same thing that happens when you look at something or someone you love.

In the gallery we often see people “moved” by a painting – sometimes to tears (not necessarily of sadness but often just unexplained emotion).  Maybe you’ve felt deeply drawn to a painting, with a “can’t get it out of my head” feeling after walking away?  Professor Semir Zeki, chair in neurosciences at UCL says, “What we have done through research is give scientific truth to what has been known for a long time – that beautiful paintings make us feel much better. What we didn’t realise until we did these studies is just how powerful the effect on the brain is.”

In his article on the Natural Blaze website Jacob Devaney wrote, “When you observe a profound piece of art you are potentially firing the same neurons as the artist did when they created it thus making new neural pathways and stimulating a state of inspiration. This sense of being drawn into a painting is called embodied cognition.” So that’s why you can’t get it out of your head!

Given we haven’t been able to get comfort from connecting with others over the past year, it is no surprise that the creative and crafts industry is booming. The rise of hashtags such as #quarantineart is enabling creatives to connect with others.  During lockdown our artists created some of the best work they have done, as they turned to their easels for comfort.

Coincidently, (we knew nothing of it until now!) today see’s the launch of Sir Anthony Gormley’s Great British Art Exhibition – which he hopes will be the biggest art exhibition ever staged.  The Angel of the North sculptor is asking people to make an artwork at home and put it in their window or garden. Whether you are a creative or not, now is the time to pick up the pens, pencils, brushes, threads, wool, fabrics, clay, or whatever you feel like, and know you are doing something that is good for you and will bring pleasure to others. Scroll on down for more info on this great project.

If you an art lover or you are at home staring at blank walls – now is the time for you to indulge too.  That piece of cake will give you a boost for a while (until the guilt sets in and the sugar levels plummet!) but a beautiful piece of art is a long-term investment in yourself and your well-being.  Even an hour spent looking at old photographs, or beautiful paintings in a book, can lift your mood.

For us, of course we miss the joy of being surrounded by the beautiful things in the gallery, but more than anything we miss what the gallery enables us to do – connect with people every day; our fantastic artists and designers, our fellow shop owners in Hill Road, the postman, the early morning coffee crowd at 67BarberBarista and of course our lovely customers – many of whom have become friends.

Until we see you again, here’s a few of our favourites to give you a little lift.

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