Today (02-12-2015) UK politicians are debating the prospect of sending airstrikes into Syria to bomb Daesh (AKA I.S., AKA Isis, AKA Isil). I heard arguments describing children witnessing severed heads in the streets of Raqqa (the Syrian headquarters of Daesh), the risk of British bombs harming civilians, damage to buildings and the instability and insecurity action might cause versus the same argument made by others should we do nothing.
As part of my research tomorrow I’m going to the British Museum to handle Goya’s The Disasters of War proofs, his anti-war manifesto depicting the inhumanity of man during Napoleon’s invasion of Spain two hundred years ago.
During the Spanish Civil war (1937) the republican government used Goya’s series of prints as propaganda against the fascists sending bespoke copies to Stalin and Eleanor Roosevelt in a hope that they might bolster support; but they did not.
In 2012 an exhibition in Beirut of Goya’s The Disasters of War was used to highlight the inequity of war and promote the notion of an ongoing immorality. In the meantime the media are streaming images & articles into our homes and on to our mobile phones.
Goya’s art remains relevant but why? Unlike my grandparents I have no experience of war. Whilst US movies dramatise, and glamourise war, and the media cannot be too graphic in case they offend people watching whilst they eat their tea. We are left with artist dealing with the most challenging art. Goya’s prints and paintings demonstrating acts of war remain as relevant today as Picasso’s Guernica. Goya captures the immorality without embellishment. Whilst the Taliban & Daesh blow up art history in Syria and Iraq we turn to art for answers.
Recently I created a painting which considered war and loss, it’s called Repatriated. It’s inspired by Jasper Johns Flag (1954-55) which I was lucky enough to see at the MoMA last month, I used encaustic wax paint, a non-toxic recipe I developed with some trial and error. Like Johns, I too added newspaper print behind the paint, although it’s uncertain why Johns did so, I used it to provide more texture, and to hide articles within it relating to the conflict, I also included a copy of the roll call, a list of the UK servicemen and women who lost their lives in the Afghanistan conflict. The shape of the flag is cropped, to appear like a flag draped over a soldier’s coffin as witnessed arriving all too frequently at Royal Wooten Bassett.
I’m currently thinking about creating a response to seeing Goya’s masterpiece, whilst being mindful of what is happening in the world presently…