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  • Miles Hedley


Grayson Perry’s Art Club was a highlight of lockdown telly. Now Southwark-based painter Rod Kitson has gone one better by not only encouraging people to tap into their creativity while self-isolating but also by physically putting on a public exhibition of their work at a pop-up gallery at Surrey Quays.

And what a show The Art Of Isolation is – 232 extraordinary pieces created by 140 people from across Britain and beyond who have captured their experience of the coronavirus crisis in almost every genre you could think of, including painting, drawing, sculpture, textiles, computer art, photography, linocut, collage, clay, plasticine, metal, wood, stone – even sourdough bread.

Kitson has hung everything he was sent, refusing nothing on the grounds of taste or talent. The result is a fabulous melange of subjects, styles and skills that probably offers as good an insight into life in lockdown as any scholarly sociological survey could.

Many of the works are by professional artists. Many others are not, yet they don’t look out of place. The sheer number of hangings – a deliberate move by Kitson as an antidote to social distancing – means that even the less technically adept pieces help to make up a rewarding whole.

It’s fun to walk round trying to pick out what’s been done by a pro, a child or a cheerful dauber. I loved the range of the professionals’ creations but I also adored many of the amateur works such as a six-year-old’s delightful painting of a bird feeding its ravenous nestlings.

Unsurprisingly in a show about isolation, there are a preponderance of portraits and images inspired by dreams of escape. There are also a batch of really moving pictures created by a group of refugees, which put our own complaints about lockdown into perspective.

In fact, the more you look at the artworks, the more you see - and the more you appreciate what an astonishing exhibition this is. Kitson has done a genuine public service with the show and I urge you to see it it. It runs between July 18 and August 1 on the top floor of Surrey Quays Shopping Centre by the escalator. Social distancing guidelines apply for all visitors. For more info, go to


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