I was 15 when I first got a part time job as a supermarket trolley pusher and I’ve now worked there on and off for more than half my life. Part of the job is getting rid of any rubbish left behind in the trolleys, which is usually just receipts, catalogues or more interestingly, abandoned shopping lists. Supermarkets are a funny intersection between the public and the private, and shopping lists can often provide a unique portrait of the people we pass in the aisles.
As our world changed during the pandemic, I noticed that our shopping lists started reflecting these changes too. For this project, I’ve recreated a new series of ten ceramic sculptures based on shopping lists I found while working during Melbourne’s 2020 lockdown. The sculptures will be presented here alongside photos of the actual shopping lists.
Most lists are written quickly, unlike ceramic which is a very slow medium, and it’s through the act of slowly recreating these lists that I’ve allowed myself the time and space to reflect on the year that’s been.
I'd like to acknowledge and pay respect to the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation, the traditional owners of the land I live and work on, and pay respect to their Elders past and present, who’ve been creating art here for tens of thousands of years.
Kenny Pittock is a Melbourne based artist who works with drawing and ceramics to playfully critique everyday life. Pittock's work hints at feelings of coping with distress, humorously teased out through nostalgic iconography and colloquialisms, optimistically responding to ideas that are both timely and timeless.
Pittock received an Honours Fine Arts Degree in painting from the Victorian College of the Arts in 2013, since then has had solo exhibitions in Italy and Singapore, as well as consistently exhibited his work all over Australia with galleries including ACCA in Melbourne, PICA in Perth, Artspace in Sydney and MONA in Tasmania.
Pittock was the recipient of the 2017 Redlands Emerging Artist Award, his work is represented in many collections including Artbank, Melbourne Town Hall, the University of Queensland, Deakin University, and the Monash University Museum of Art.
During the lockdown, many people passed the time by picking up new hobbies like giving themselves haircuts, adopting pets, and giving their pets haircuts.
Here’s a ceramic sculpture written by someone who used their time to plan out a week’s worth of breakfasts, lunches, afternoon teas and dinners.
Here’s a ceramic sculpture of a shopping list I found last year that says ‘Chocolates for neighbour’.
One of the more positive things we’ve seen during the pandemic is the many ways people are looking out for each other, and becoming more caring to those around us.
I was secretly hoping this list had belonged to one of my neighbours but sadly they haven’t given me any chocolates yet, hopefully next lockdown.
Here’s a ceramic sculpture of a shopping list I found last year written on both sides of an envelope.
This list was written during the peak of panic buying, when people couldn’t rely on what they wanted being in stock and so often had to improvise, as seen with items on this list such as, ‘Get pkt Rice if you can’ and ‘6 pkts Butter Chicken D.F. or Something else.’
One of the only places you’re allowed to go during lockdown is the supermarket, and so it becomes quite the hangout destination. I noticed that many of the shopping lists I found at this time became increasingly shorter as people, looking for an excuse to leave the house, would spread out their weekly shop over several days.
With schools closed last year, there was an increase in shopping lists written by children. Here’s a ceramic sculpture of a shopping list I found written on the back of some maths homeschooling.
What I love most about this list is that while lots of people wanted a cat and a dog during lockdown, this person wanted a ‘chese biscat’ and a ‘pup pastri’.
Working as a supermarket cleaner during Melbourne’s lockdown, I was officially called an ‘essential worker’. My shifts started at 5am so I was given a permit that allowed me to travel outside of curfew, and I was able to go outside my 5km limit to get to work. It felt good to be a frontline worker - just doctors, nurses, and me mopping up a spill in aisle 9.
But I wasn’t the only one doing lots of cleaning last year of course. Here’s a ceramic sculpture of a list by someone who also had some cleaning ahead of them.
I felt lucky to be able to leave my house to go to work. Here’s a ceramic sculpture of a shopping list I found last year written by someone who instead had to turn their home into an office.
Here’s a ceramic sculpture of the first time I ever saw ‘hand sanitizer’ on a shopping list.
On the back of it is the first time I ever saw a drawing of a giraffe on a shopping list.
To ensure that the elderly were able to buy the things they needed and not be crushed in the panic buying stampedes, during lockdown the supermarket began opening an hour early for people with a pensioner card.
Here’s a ceramic sculpture of a list I found during the early hour. It was the first time I’d seen a list that had ‘newspapers'.
I really thought about how if you don’t use the internet as much, the newspaper would be a somewhat reliable place to get your daily case numbers and restriction updates. Either that or they just wanted the paper so they can do the quiz.
To help get through the difficulties of the past year, many people tried out new hobbies. Here’s a ceramic sculpture of a shopping list I found written by someone who wanted a painting set. I really hope this person enjoyed their painting set, I know how much painting has always helped me.
I sometimes wonder if physical shopping lists will ever go extinct as more people write them in their phones, but it doesn’t seem to be the case. A big thanks to all the people who write shopping lists, I genuinely love finding them and am end-list-ly grateful.