Monday, 18 July 2016

Deja Vu

“The truth is that we are always forgetting the fact that other people, beyond our tribal boundaries, are actually as real as we are”
While our response to tragedy must always be a compassionate one, ought we still to be aware of the potential for both social media and the press in conditioning our response to yet more atrocities?

In France, the Nice attack provided another example of people taking advantage of tragedy to spread irresponsible and dangerously false rumours via social media Furthermore, do we recall being as shocked when over four times this number of lives were lost (340, including children on July 2) in a suicide bombing in a crowded market in Baghdad? Did we even notice it reported in the Western press? Could the Western media be prompting us to believe (without us even being conscious of it) that somehow lives in Baghdad, Nairobi or Karachi matter less than those in Belgium, France, the US? 

All lives should be valued. Even of those who have lost their way.

As Banksy said “The truth is that we are always forgetting the fact that other people, beyond our tribal boundaries, are actually as real as we are. No amount of beard stroking or political debate can make us empathise with the strange aliens that throng the world beyond.” 1.  What we may be witnessing is a global reaction akin to closing ranks by shutting our borders and ignoring or expelling those who are not like us. As a colleague said to me after the UK's Brexit vote, we’re not in a good place right now.

What we need is more open-ness, not less. Without a knowledge and understanding of those from beyond our boundaries, we will end up fearing them, falling prey to all sorts of inaccurate and damaging scaremongering and stereotyping.

Building walls along our boundaries is the lazy answer. Building bridges over them is the smart one.

Boundaries and bridges are some of the themes in my new work being launched on-line.

In “Terminvs” I have included the Latin phrase terminus post quod non licit; no going beyond this boundary. On the left there is an image of confrontation (here and no further). The right hand image speaks of the opposite (here is the starting point). This is one of three mixed media collages that essentially started out as groundwork for new etchings. I had thought that their inherent “rough and ready” energy would relate to the nature of etching. But, as is often the way with any creative process they have taken on a life of their own. They have ended up not only as finished works in their own right but have also surprisingly (to me at least) been influencing new digital compositions to be launched on line later in the year.

I said in my last blog that the gargoyles may pop up again. I was right! Their significance for me is in the see-no..., speak-no..., hear-no... postures. The gargoyle in the mezzotint “Reflections of the Age in Cultural Expression” seems to be in a state of both blindness and deafness. With its mouth wide open, it is spouting (as gargoyles do) its own self-important opinions, oblivious to others. “The fewer the facts, the stronger the opinion” 2. Meanwhile the dove sleeps peacefully on its olive branch overhead. The three chrome plated letters lower down (S,L and M) form the tri-consonantal root of both the Arabic word salaam and the Hebrew word shalom (more in September 2014 blog post  below). That’s why I deliberately designed both words of the salaam/shalom graffiti on the back wall using exactly the same style for each, stressing their commonality.

Journey Homewards” was made especially for the new exhibition “View from the Train” at the Glasgow Print Studio in Scotland. It portrays an Italian landscape, a Scottish seascape and a Jerusalem cityscape: views from three places where I feel at home. The reference to “nostalgia” (L fr. Gk: nostos-return home, algos- pain) hints at the yearning or searching that I believe lies deep within the make up of each one of us; something that I have touched on many times in earlier work over the decades.

1. Banksy. Street artist
2. Arnold Glasow. American humourist and businessman.


Tuesday, 22 March 2016

The rise of the liberal (and other) fundamentalists.

"Be the change you want to see in the world" said Gandhi.

On the face of it this is a positive and proactive attitude to cultivate. However, I can't help but wonder if, coupled with many of the self gratifying doctrines promoted by contemporary society, it could nowadays be interpreted as justification for a certain amount of arrogance masquerading as progress, change, even self-fulfillment or whatever.

I know that there is no point in sitting around moaning about stuff we don't like. And if we want to see real change then we have to DO something about it. But if we are insensitive, or should I say desensitized to those around us who may not feel the same way about the same stuff then we run the risk of creating some serious conflicts. 

"The truth is that we are always forgetting the fact that other people, beyond our tribal boundaries, are actually as real as we are. No amount of beard stroking or political debate can make us empathise with the strange aliens that throng the world beyond." 1.

We see this evidenced in the shocking rise and rapid advance of ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, aka IS, ISIS, Daesh) in the Middle East and North Africa or the huge following and support for Donald Trump regardless of his outrageously total-phobic philosophies

In the aftermath of the very recent bombings in Istanbul and Brussels we could do well to qualify Gandhi's brave statement with a follow up. Be the change you want to see in the world, while doing unto others what you would have them do to you. I'm going to give that a try.

This seems to be the theme running through the main body of new work that has just been launched. "Orphaned Land - Silent Land" is based on a drawing that I made and launched last year at the time of the attacks on Charlie Hebdo's offices and the Jewish deli in Paris. This is what I said about that drawing at the time...and I still stand by it. "Freedom of speech is not absolute and responsibilities are attached to it and more so when those living at the margins are subject to racism and discrimination. We should defend free speech but doing so while listening to the voice of the voiceless living in our midst..." 2. Do we identify with either the hawks or the doves in our dealings with others?

I wonder if, in "an index of possibilities" the gargoyles who are busy seeing nothing, hearing nothing and speaking nothing in the face of overwhelming evidence are going to pop up again whilst this body of work grows. I'll be keeping an eye out for them.

1. Banksy. Street artist.
2. Yasmina Khadra. One of the most celebrated authors in France today whose real name is Mohammed Moulessehoul. He is Muslim and was born in Algeria, where he served in the military.