‘Aboutface’ surgical masks in the era of social distancing

During Covid-19’s unforgiving reign over our lives and social freedoms we have become all too familiar with the image of the surgical face mask. Designed for use by health professionals and surgeons to protect patients, the disposable facial armour has in the past few months been worn by many people around the world in the hope of warding off the spread of the viral contagion, and will forever be a symbolic reminder of ‘these’ times.

What Lies Above, 2020. Courtesy the artist and artisan, Queensland

In response to this phenomenon Queensland’s artisan called out to national and international members of the craft and design community to participate in ‘Aboutface’, a project which invited artists in isolation to make, remodel, rework, embellish and decorate home-made masks as a creative way to document the global pandemic experience, express their concerns and tell their stories.

From July 10 to August 22 the ‘Aboutface’ exhibition of 84 artworks created by 64 artists from across Australia, Indonesia, India, Bangladesh, Italy, Poland, Zimbabwe and the UK, will be on display in artisan’s King Street Window gallery and online. The mask creations will be presented anonymously until the exhibition closes with each work identifiable by title only, this approach is designed to acknowledge the indiscriminate nature of the global crisis and to highlight the notion that we are all in this together, and thereby staging an open platform for a diverse range of universal, personal and political themes to come to light.

Home Sweet Home, 2020. Courtesy the artist and artisan, Queensland

From handstitched workings and three dimensional quirky alien-like felt creatures among an eclectic range of mask designs embellished with various motifs, lace, fabrics and other artistic mediums, labelled with storytelling titles such as Security Screen, Stay Inside, Essential Worker, What Lies Below, Inflammation, A false Sense of Security and Don’t Touch Your face, familiar understandings of the global experience unfold.

“These masks will endure and serve as a document for right now, for what we are going through and who we really are, in the face of Covid-19,” says artisan curator Cassandra Lehman.

At the conclusion of the exhibition the connection between the artists and their artworks will be revealed and the artists will be celebrated for their contributions to the documentation of this extraordinary time in world history.

Don’t Touch Your face, Inflammation and Alienation. Courtesy the artist and artisan, Queensland

artisan is a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to supporting and promoting contemporary craft and design practice for both makers and their audiences. artisan plays an important role as the peak body for craft and design in Queensland and is the state’s only dedicated organisation focused on the presentation, advancement and legacy of quality craft and design.

To view ‘Aboutface’ online and to read the artists sentiments about the works they have created for the exhibition click here. Don’t forget to check back on artisan’s website once the show closes for the matching up of artists with their works. If you plan to visit, go to artisan’s website for the location and opening times.