THE hardest thing about the coronavirus lockdown was, for most of us, the loss of contact with family and friends.

Along with the ever-present fear of the illness itself, the long months of isolation separated families and split friendships.

We were forbidden from seeing relatives; parents and grandparents separated from children and grandchildren. Sometimes even spouses and partners.

It would have been a strain at any time, but at a moment of crisis, when we weren’t sure at all whether we’d meet again, it was doubly harrowing.

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The Ashmolean Museum’s Artist in Residence competition, run with The Oxford Times, saw hundreds of readers sending in pieces of art inspired by their experience of the coronavirus epidemic. And some of the strongest where images and impressions of loved-ones – either distant and longed-for, or close at hand and protected.

Oxford Mail:

The competition came to a close earlier this month after seeing more than 1,000 entries of exceptional standard. Whether rendered in paint, ink, pencil, ceramics, sculpture, photography, installation or video, they gave voice to people’s sense of isolation, panic, hope and, above all, creativity.

The museum’s Sarah Holland said: “Family, friends and loved ones featured heavily; abstract thoughts, dreams and emotions were vividly captured; and there were many ‘Rooms With a View’ in response to the very real physical limits of lockdown.

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“While younger children adapted to missing their school friends, older students were affected by the cancellation of exams. The great outdoors and the natural world proved to be a huge source of comfort and creativity. Most of all, there was a lot of love, admiration and gratitude for key workers.”

Oxford Mail:

Work will be judged by a panel consisting of Dr Xa Sturgis, Director of the Ashmolean Museum; Dr Janina Ramirez, cultural historian, broadcaster and Course Director at Oxford University; Dr Kamal Mahtani, GP and Deputy Directory of the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine at Oxford University; and myself, Audience Content and Features Editor of The Oxford Times.

We can’t wait to share the results with you once judging is complete.