• Naseem Syed

‘One Day At A Time’ by Marion Cheung


I'm a freelance visual artist with a socially engaged practice. My passion is using the arts to bring people together to share stories and try something new, no matter what level of experience or ability. I work mainly in paint, print and stitch - and use different processes (including textile banners and individual origami) to display co-produced artwork.

Has lockdown changed you? How? Why?

Lockdown made me slow down and value my own health and appreciate friends and family... just taking more time to take care of yourself and others. Lockdown made me realise the importance of the arts - it was something that I turned to even more. I used the time to upskill digitally and develop my own practice. This enables me to discover new ways in which I can support others in finding their IKIGAI or creative meaning in life...basically that something that makes you want to jump out of bed in the morning.

What made you smile or brought you joy in lockdown? Can you explain it?

Sitting on my doorstep in the morning sun with a cuppa with no constant traffic and the fumes. Hearing birdsong outside my house. I loved the daily walks. The fact that they were initially only 30 minutes long made them a novelty! Noticing the flowers and trees come into bloom at different stages of the best springtime we've ever seen was really special. I saw random gifts for strangers - messages written on the pavement in chalk to say thanks to the incredible NHS staff. Also, after living in Wales for 15 years I discovered hidden walks which were right under my nose and I'd never noticed them before because I was so busy rushing around from A to B.

Have you changed since lockdown? Tell me why.

Realising even more just how fragile everything really is - especially when the world went quiet, nature started to reclaim and the images I saw from space over the once heavily polluted factories in China were real eye openers. Having been a child of the 1970s, it felt like time had reverted back to the days when there was less traffic on the streets and people didn't shop on Sundays. Every single day during the first lockdown was like that! What an extraordinary time to be alive! It makes me think even more, "What can I do to make a difference to the world and to someone?" I know it sounds cliched and existential but I think we can all do something. Even just walking or taking the bike instead of the car...shopping local... a phone call or a written note through someone's door to find out if you can help - little things like that can make someone's day. It's also important to look after yourself too and put boundaries around the things you need for your own wellbeing.

What is the story behind your hand art?

At first, I was anxious. We were all fighting an invisible war. Some more than others. The news just relentlessly gives us depressing statistics. I use stitch in my community projects and in absence of them (everything had been cancelled) I discovered how the slowness of this process enabled me to focus and not feel anxious about the news. Being at home, surrounded by familiarity and comfort led me to choosing these materials which I love for the colour and pattern. They lifted my spirits when I was working with them - the effect is homely. The saying, take one day at a time kept running through my mind. I made a few of these - aiming to make a community art piece and Lost Connections came along!

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