A Hot Sec with Baskwa the Melbourne-based visual artist

As COVID-19 surges through Melbourne, Isabella sat down with Baskwa the Zimbabwean-Australian artist to discuss how he existed as an artist in the constantly evolving creative space.

“The pandemic has influenced some of my pieces. It has been such a joint global experience, so I feel there is a strong, higher conscious energy around us. This has inspired me to work harder and given me a stronger sense of purpose with what I aim to achieve through my work.”

Government Assistance

On the 25th of June the government announced they would be providing a 250-million-dollar package to support artists and organisations to get back on their feet following the COVID-19 disruptions. Alongside this more than 25,000 people in the creative and performing arts received JobKeeper, the government funded temporary subsidy for businesses significantly affected by coronavirus and were provided opportunity to apply for grants.

“By the time, I was aware of the artist grant that the government made available, I was too late and applications to receive funding had closed. I have been receiving Job Seeker payments, which help cover the rent. But my main living expenses and such have been through my commission work and general sales. I was lucky enough to be able to host an exhibition on 14 March – a week before Melbourne went through our first lockdown – so I had some reserve funds from that event, which helped a lot.”

A study from the Bureau of Communications and Art’s Research found that more than 90 per cent of people in the sector had employment arrangements that allowed them to receive JobKeeper.

For Baskwa however, the JobKeeper payments only compensate for the financial cuts to his career.

“One thing I dearly miss, more than nearly anything else, is my frequent visits to art galleries. Right before the virus hit, I was a month deep into a personal mission to visit as many art galleries and exhibitions as possible – usually about two-three a week. I often gain inspiration and insight from these visits, which influences my work positively.”


Baskwa's Inspirations

Baskwa’s work reflects his African heritage whilst also drawing muse from neo-expressionism, abstract and pop-art movements.

“Love is the prime unifying thread throughout my experiences, and my work often highlights my desire to continuously seek and spread more love.”

Before isolation, Baskwa continued to paint 6 days a week, already in his own seclusion. Now with restrictions tightening, his living conditions have adjusted again, accommodating for his wife who is working from home as well.

“My wife is home with me now during the weekdays, before the pandemic she was away at work during regular folk hours. Having her at home has been sweet. Creating a joint routine with my wife wasn’t necessarily a struggle, but certainly a new adaptation considering she is very much used to organised structure – whereas I am quite spontaneous and flexible.”

With the change to regiment comes change to business and the way it is conducted. Baskwa has, like many, been able to use social media and the internet to reach buyers and audiences for his art.

“Social media has certainly been an asset. I feel that even more so now, I manage a lot of my sales through Instagram DM. I have gained many new followers through this pandemic, which has brought in more work and general requests too.”

“The pandemic has influenced some of my pieces – but not that many. It has been such a joint global experience, so I feel there is a strong, higher conscious energy around us, which has inspired my work and given me a stronger sense of purpose.”

The Pandemic Will Change Things

The global pandemic has affected all aspects of individuals lives and careers. The strive to continue on working and living has changed everyone, artist Baskwa included.

Art as an industry will see great changes in the short future. For Baskwa the challenges ahead can as well be seen as opportunities to rejuvenate the local arts sector as a whole.

“There is an incredible opportunity for local artists in Melbourne, and Australia as a whole really. Restrictions on travel will consequentially restrict non-local artists and work. This means that local artists will be the ones to respawn the art sector and scene here.”

Although the future is uncertain, the ability and demand to adapt resonates through Baskwa’s experience. To develop and grow is essential to Baskwa’s professional and personal life.

"There are many creative challenges ahead of us, and recovery will require profound innovation.”

Story By: Isabella Jeffrey