How have you approached the Covid situation?
Initially I was just plain cross with it all and hoped it would pass quickly, but it was also clear that this might well not happen. Here we are, nearly a year later. Fighting Covid is more than just a medical and physical battle, it’s a battle for mental health and well-being too.
It’s crucial to avoid being dragged down by unwanted change, becoming fixated on the statistics and allowing conversations to be dominated by the latest lockdown news. Covid added further layers to our complex lives and it’s important to remember that everyone is dealing with life in the round, which in itself can be very challenging.
Where have you found the focus for your work and what is it that drew you to it?
My work often has its starting point in the resonance of experiences, places, conversations, personal reflection and responses to literature and music. Its focus over the last year reflects a recent move to Bloxham in Oxfordshire from Greenwich in London and getting to know a new place.
Specifically I have become interested in the unique imagery found in the carvings of the local church architecture, dating from the 14th Century, a time which had parallels with our own. I have also been looking at other aspects of the place, including the impact of the civil war and ancient archaeology such as the Rollright stones, a sort of mini-Stonehenge on the hills a few miles away. Both are likely to emerge in coming months. And then there’s a marvellous 1940s COI film called 24 Square Miles which examined rural development, based on this area, which is going to feed in somewhere I am sure.
Alongside this Colin Pink and I have continued the collaboration that started with the collection The Ventriloquist Dummy’s Lament, and some of my woodcuts are due to appear in a new collection later this year.
Can you tell me something about your portfolio Lockdown Explorations?
Lockdown Explorations documents some of my drawings of the carvings at the local church, St Mary’s Bloxham, which have been done during the strange times of Covid restrictions. There are also some linocuts derived from them. The carvings are a heady mix of sacred and profane, but because of the passage of time information is scarce about the story they are intended to tell or exactly why they were produced. Many are highly ambiguous, but they are found alongside some very clear judgement scenes and portrayals of the apostles. This suggests to me that more clarity could eventually be forthcoming.
Getting things done has been a bit of a struggle. There have been the obvious frustrations of Covid and I have also been working without a studio which is emerging as part of house renovations. So Lockdown Explorations reflects a tentative start in a new situation, alongside the woodcut poetry illustrations.
Were you drawn to any particular carvings and do you think it was because of the times we are living through?
Yes, as I looked more deeply at this ambiguous mediaeval imagery it generated contemporary meaning: A sheltering hare reminded me of people shielding; A conflict between two characters had resonance with the civil war three centuries later and current political tensions; And the corroded faces of the saints looked just like people wearing masks. It put things in context for me too. For example it is thought that the Great Plague/ Black Death of 1348 killed around 50% of the population. Covid is terrible and frightening for many, the 1918 influenza pandemic was devastating, but we can’t possibly imagine the impact of a pandemic of that scale. Yet people lived through it and life went on, eventually.
Yet these works are not just about Covid and Lockdown, they relate to wider and more general questions such as what’s important and makes for a good life, a good community, a good place. So they’re explorations at this time to place it in context, not into this time. As I said earlier, life goes on.
Do you see a parallel between the medieval life at St Mary’s church and what is happening in the present day?
That’s a very difficult question to answer because so little is known about the life of ordinary people at that time. I have found my own meaning in the imagery but it might just be misplaced inference or even appropriation and I am carrying on with reading and research to find out more. On the other hand, I am also aware that not knowing everything has its advantages, so I am proceeding tentatively and enjoying the competing interpretations!
What have you learned from the last year?
My key piece of learning was to make the most of everything that is possible, rather than mourn the loss of freedoms and life as it was. We are where we are, and it is probably best to try and work with that. So while I have put some things on hold I have also tried to maintain some momentum and keep friendship and collaboration going with key people in my network, whilst also trying to avoid Zoom/Skype fatigue!
Thinking of your readers, the poetry world seems to have some very good networks and linkages and I am aware that some Stanzas have moved online to ensure continued development and support. That’s a great idea and definitely reflects the importance of sharing and testing one’s approach and output in order to develop.
Just making sure that there’s support from one’s world of practice and being comfortable with taking small steps forward under these circumstances seems to be victory enough. The trick will be to take what’s positive from all this and make it a foundation for work going forward.
I have asked you for an image of your artwork for a writing prompt. What have you selected and why did you choose it?
I have selected an ink and wash drawing of a woman’s head from the doorway of St Mary’s Bloxham. It’s quite badly corroded and, as I said, reminds me of someone that’s masked. I chose it because I would love to know what she thought or would be thinking now. Perhaps her voice could come out of the poems that people might write; or perhaps it she might help poets respond in their own voice. It will be great to see what happens!
Do post your poems in the comments below. Selected poems will be published later in the spring.
Daniel Goodwin’s work draws from places, conversations, personal reflection and responses to literature and music. It includes acrylic and watercolour paintings, woodcuts, and works in ink. It has its roots in 20th century modernism and is increasingly inspired by Northern European art, for example the artists of the mid-20th Century COBRA movement. He is currently working on a series on local places, including a mediaeval church and a group of standing stones, reflecting on what they tell us about the people and communities who have gone before us. See www.danielgoodwinart.com for further details.
Daniel is very interested in how people engage art and his work is almost always produced in dialogue. A good example of this is his ongoing collaboration with the poet Colin Pink, producing woodcuts for The Ventriloquist Dummy’s Lament and another forthcoming collection.