• Naseem Syed

'Palm Trees' by Seren Williams

Updated: Nov 10, 2020


Student studying Fine Art in university.

Has lockdown changed you?

I’ve always enjoyed being at home with family, and have been able to amuse myself easily since I was a small child, therefore lockdown didn’t have such a dramatic effect on me as it has had on other people. It gave me the space to think independently and be alone with my own mind, something that is hard to come by these days. And although we were all separated and isolated, in some ways I felt more connected. We held quizzes over zoom with family and friends, I talked to my Nan every day on the phone, lockdown made us truly appreciate the relationships we have and work hard to keep them.

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

My final major project for foundation was on cowboys, so as I continued to work on it through spring and into early summer, it brought me joy, being productive and working towards something. I combined historical research, creative writing, and art all of which are things I enjoy doing, it made every day slightly different. Through constantly finding new information to learn from and react to, I kept myself motivated. I think I’ve always had a casual interest in cowboys, but allowing myself to focus entirely on one subject that I enjoyed and found interesting made the work fun and fulfilling to do.

Lockdown also gave me the time that I’d never had to dedicate myself to reading, from March to July I read some 16 books that I had been meaning to read for years. Finishing a book is satisfying so as well as enjoying the story, I found joy in finishing them. Doing book reviews for my friends was a fun way I found to keep in contact and keep myself busy.

I painted, sorted, cleaned, and alphabetised my bedroom, I did things I’d been putting off. I liked to imagine that this is what Emily Dickinson’s life must have been like, the reclusive poet secluding herself from people of her own volition, but nevertheless I felt a kinship with her. So I read more Emily Dickinson too.

I’m going to uni in October so being able to spend so much time with my parents before moving away was something I wouldn’t have had otherwise. We watched our favourite 90s rom coms, laughed, had family dinners, and enjoyed each other’s company.

Have you changed since lockdown? Tell me why?

I wouldn’t say lockdown changed me at all, apart from the obvious behavioural changes, at my core I am the same. I appreciate my family as I always have, and I still enjoy the hobbies that kept me busy throughout lockdown. If I had to say one thing that’s changed, it would be that I’m no longer afraid to take my time on things, weather this is a good or bad thing remains to be seen.

What is the story behind your hand artwork?

I have used the hand motif in previous work so I decided to use the same sort of motif in this work. In that previous work the hands were used to represent familial ties and the bridging of those ties by non-family members. But the hands I created as a part of this project appear to me as solitary figures, standing alone as beacons, not trying to bridge anything. In a time where touching has become taboo, the outstretched hand becomes a threat. By separating the individual hands and encasing them within lines of black ink I have neutralised that threat, which allows them to be seen as symbols of our own shared humanity, something we are acutely aware of since lockdown. A hand is a part of what it means to be human, we all have them, we all use them, but it’s what we use them for that matters.

The work I created reminds me a little of Keith Haring’s work, his ‘Radiant Baby’ represents a pure and positive experience of human existence and is symbolic of Haring’s hope for the future. The image was used in many of Haring’s works associated with racism, drug addiction, AIDS awareness and tolerance. The ‘Radiant Baby’ is potential, youth, and independence, crawling without vulnerability or weakness, crawling towards a better future. I hope that my drawings will convey this same hope in what seems a hopeless situation. I hope that my drawings convey this same hope, for a future that’s not too far away.

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