Ashley Baldwin-Smith

MA Fine Art

Ashley is a multi-disciplinary artist, using sculpture, found objects, photography, paint and digital media to highlight both environmental and cultural aspects of sustainability. Much of his work focuses on habits of the 'throwaway society' and how an addiction to instant gratification and consumerism is linked to global warming, extinction and pollution. This includes researching the human condition and how it relates to the lack of awareness and respect for others that are not environmentally sustainable or conducive to building of healthy societies.

Like so many artists, Covid-19 forced Ashley to adapt his practice, with limited or no access to facilities or materials, he decided to use the restricted time, allowed for exercise, to document the surreal empty streets of Cambridge and the notices and signs and other changes that appeared as measures and restrictions were tightened or eased. This journal, titled Converging Time is a continuation and adaption of practice-based research that involved documenting walks and collecting discarded objects in his local environment. However, the artwork is also a phenomenological study of living and experiencing the Covid-19 pandemic. The pleasure at seeing nature reclaiming the environment and of clean clear skies across the world, countered, by the feeling of frustration and helplessness, as lockdown eased and so many people returned to a non-sustainable way of living.

Ashley expanded the artwork to include found images from across the world, and to explore how the unfolding pandemic has been experienced by different societies. Some images, such as the mass burials or clear skies, have forever been burned into his mind but others are fleeting and random. The images are deliberately randomised, representing the blurring of time and memories over the past months. This also ensures each viewer will have a different experience when navigating the artwork.

In years to come, we will all have alternative memories of how we lived through the pandemic dictated by shared experience of our family, ‘bubble’ or group, but Ashley believes there will also be a 'collective memory' (Halbwachs 1952) of the pandemic. Perhaps, politics, historians, writers, the media or the film industry will twist the narrative and maybe different cultures will have their 'collective memory' within the global 'collective' but, most likely, the truth will be merged with myth and even outright lies. The pandemic could be a converging point for mankind, by highlighting issues of extremism, climatic change and inequality that forces us all to make changes.