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You Might Not Wear This Face Mask, But There's A Powerful Message Behind It


Before the Covid-19 pandemic came the global financial crash of 2008. Before then, we all went through the Y2K panic – remember that? – and even further back in history, the bubonic plague.

A new exhibition addresses some of the major world events that impacted the human race, long before any of us had heard the word ‘coronavirus’. And it’s doing it through the medium of the moment – the face mask.

Australian artist Angela Morris Winmill has created a series of bespoke face coverings as a reminder of the challenges the human race has already overcome – and the serious challenges we still face alongside Covid-19.

Angela Morris Winmill wearing her Y2K mask.

Angela Morris Winmill wearing her Y2K mask.

Morris-Winmill created the masks during lockdown as part of her ongoing exploration into the effects of human consumption on the environment.

“I was making regular surgical masks for local charities and the NHS and over the many hours I was doing so, began to consider that they will likely become an everyday clothing item soon. I wondered how long it would be before designer fashion brands released their own versions and wondered how extravagant they may become in the future,” says the artist.

“I’m fascinated by the extent to which the human race affects the environment and this series of work explores that,” says Morris-Winmill. “I hope that visitors to the exhibition will be able to enjoy the work whilst also considering the inspiration behind each piece.”

Key to the display – hosted virtually by London’s M1 Fine Art Gallery – is a mask composed of reclaimed computer parts priced at more than £1,000.

'Y2K' by Angela Morris Winmill:

‘Y2K’ by Angela Morris Winmill: “In the years immediately before the turn of the 21st century, the globe was gripped with a fear of recent-found technological advances being taken away at the strike of midnight. Planes were predicted to fall from the sky, televisions and even fridges were expected to stop working. This mask is made entirely from used chips, wires and other computer parts which within just a few years of creation are usually destined for scrap heap disposal. A striking juxtaposition of how our throwaway society can lead to disastrous consequences.”

The online exhibition launches on the same day that face coverings become mandatory on public transport in the U.K. – and all proceeds from sales of the works are going to The British Lung Foundation.

Morris-Winmill cites her daughter’s diagnosis with chronic asthma before her first birthday as a major inspiration for her artwork in general, but particularly this collection.

“Raising my daughter, it was clear that her asthma was greatly affected by air pollution caused by transport and industry. This has always played heavily on my mind and creating these face masks during lockdown took me back to the feelings of helplessness I experienced for all those years,” she says.

You can see more images below or view the full exhibition online here.

'Meat' by Angela Morris Winmill: 

‘Meat’ by Angela Morris Winmill:  “Exploring the reality of the livestock industry and how it affects it’s ‘products’, Morris-Winmill has encased raw, torn flesh into resin and moulded it around barbed wire to graphically display just some of the negative elements the animals we know of as normal during their short lifetimes.”
'2008' by Angela Morris Winmill: 

‘2008’ by Angela Morris Winmill:  “This mask references the avarice and pleonexia which abounded in the lead-up to the 2008 worldwide financial crash. A crash which continues to affect so many to this day. Morris-Winmill mentally replaced the lies with money ’spewing’ out of the mouths of those who caused the crash and used this as her inspiration for this piece.”
'Our Rainforests Weep' by Angela Morris Winmill:

‘Our Rainforests Weep’ by Angela Morris Winmill: “Constructed largely from the roots of plants which died as a result of drought within the UK, this piece creates a humorous display to encourage serious thought about the destruction of our rainforests and why we feel it necessary to continue on the path we are on. With the resulting ‘beard’ masking the true identity of the wearer, the idea of political dishonesty is referenced. A true mask in many senses…”
'Bubonic' by Angela Morris Winmill:

‘Bubonic’ by Angela Morris Winmill: “Known as ’The Black Death’, this bubonic plague was the most fatal pandemic recorded in human history, resulting in the deaths of up to 60% of Europe’s population during the 14th century. The disease spread so widely and quickly due to the poor hygiene humans kept at the time and this mask references a supposed contraction ‘prevention method’ of the time often sung about in the nursery rhyme ‘ring-a-ring-a-roses’.”

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