‘COVID Conversations’ at Tashkeel showcased a group exhibition by UAE-based artists and designers that reflect upon the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. By focusing on creative acts that seek to explore, understand and process responses and reactions to the pandemic, the exhibition aimed to examine the highs and the lows of the psychological impact, and creativity borne from the challenges of limitation, isolation and change, whether positive or negative.
Rakhi Sawalani is an artist who has been exhibiting her works at the group exhibition at Tashkeel. Her exhibition, titled ‘Yearning for Pre-Social Distancing,’ showcases a nostalgia for the world before COVID-19 took over.
“Pre-COVID, we saw technology as more of a curse than a blessing. Glued to our screens, we ignored the world around us, foregoing direct contact with friends and family. Now, we desperately seek meaningful social interaction. The most fortunate of us have been able to lock down with our families while others have remained alone”, says Rakhi.
Rakhi Sawalani was born and raised in Barcelona. She founded Desert Art Collective in the UAE with art teacher Marina Roussou, to conceive and create new and exciting pieces with a diverse group of local artists. It organises workshops including drawing, acrylic painting, watercolour painting and Arabic calligraphy, encouraging one another to try new techniques and find new ways to develop their practice.
In the image above, the artwork depicts the girls in the corners using virtual reality to experience the connection that we have all been missing. They are wishing they could be together with their friends and family, as seen in the idyllic vision in the centre. The girl on the left hugs herself for comfort while the girl on the right holds her hand up, pretending to hold the glass depicted at bottom of the work. Both are yearning for the time before social distancing.
The exhibition featured visual artists of all disciplines, graphic designers, product designers and other creatives with finished works, experimental outcomes and research in a range of mediums realised during the period since March 2020, when restrictions on movement and engagement were first introduced.