2018: THINGS TO BE CHEERFUL ABOUT?

Happy New Year everyone.   As we approach a brand new, fresh year I am hoping that some things may happen to give me some optimism for the future. But I am struggling to foresee anything that might work that magic?

I won’t look to this UK government to suddenly wake up, look around them and see what an utter mess this country is in.  To pick one area where they could help, the NHS, they have cancelled all non-essential operations for January – apparently it is NOT in crisis!!??  Then there is the 3.4% fare rise on our railways whilst earnings have not risen sufficiently to make this hike affordable.  Let’s not forget poverty, how could we forget that the past Christmas saw more homeless children than ever before.  Which takes us nicely onto the lack of affordable housing whilst around 610,123 homes remain empty in England; 31,884 in Scotland and 23,131 in Wales.

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I won’t look to the environment as we leave a year riddled with extreme weather.  The fingerprints of climate change experienced throughout 2017 have featured supercharged storms, hurricanes, floods and heatwaves through to bushfires. 2017 has seen it all.

So I’ll move onto world peace or the lack of it.  With the crisis in Gaza, the rise of Islamist militants in Iraq and Syria and the international stand-off ongoing in Ukraine, it can sometimes feel like the whole world is at war.  And experts believe this is actually almost universally the case, according to a think-tank which produces one of the world’s leading measures of “global peacefulness” – things are only going to get worse.  Out of 162 countries covered by the Institute for Economics and Peace’s latest study says that just 11 countries were not involved in conflict of one kind or another.

Never again War

Without even mentioning Donald Trump or North Koreait is looking like a rather bleak year that we are entering.  Yes, little babies are fantastic and wonderfully full of potential but what sort of world will they grown up in?  The planet upon which we live is beautiful and nature is wonderful but human beings are working hard to pollute it.  Technology is a whole other bag of worms offering some potential advantages and some threats with multi-national companies in charge of whole banks of knowledge about us.  We must not walk blindfold into this brave new world.  If I have depressed you, I am sorry, and beg you to reply to this Blog with some ideas about 2018 that may cheer us up?

Self Portrait

PS.  What a shame these images by my favourite printmaker, Kathe Kollwitz, still resonates nearly a hundred years after they were created.

Riot

 

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LEST WE FORGET

KÄTHE KOLLWITZ

Self Portrait

As we mark the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the First World War it seems appropriate to remember a truly amazing female artist, Käthe Kollwitz, who depicted the turbulent events of late 19th and early 20th century Germany through the eyes of a mother.

The subject for her early works The Weaver’s Revolt 1899 and The Peasants’ War 1908 highlights her empathy for the less fortunate, expressed through the graphic means of drawing, etching, lithography and woodcut in which she embraced the victims of poverty, hunger, and war.

Riot

Traumatised during the whole of the First World War she was unable to complete a single work, her silence a token of her pacifism and a reflection of her deep sadness at the loss of her younger son Peter in the conflict.  “Where do all the women who have watched so carefully over the lives of their beloved ones get the heroism to face the canon” she asked?

It was only some time after the war that Kollwitz approached the theme directly with her poster Never Again War! 1924.

Never again War

Käthe Kollwitz who trained at women’s art schools both in Munich and Berlin rose above the repressions of male-dominated artistic and social institutions, elevating the importance of the intimate, personal world in her works and focused on the downtrodden and outcasts of society.

From many wounds

She was dedicated to her art in a time that was intolerant of women and it is a great testament to her talent and her quiet, insistence that she received acclaim during her own lifetime.  Whilst personal and intimate her works had great political resonance, resulting in their removal from the museums by the Nazis and her expulsion from the Prussian Academy.  Kollwitz, nevertheless, never flinched from depicting the suffering of those oppressed by conflict and her defiant denial of ‘beauty’ continued to confront society’s injustices.

That her work is trembling full of emotion is self-evident; that she was an artist of the people is precisely apposite.  She reflected the unequal times in which she lived and her prints offer an eloquent and often searing account of the human condition, and the tragedy of war.

Kollwitz devoted her life’s work to the depiction of the suffering of humanity and, most significantly, the plight of women.  Her mastery over her chosen medium together with the subject matter – what mother could fail to be moved by that – endows her work with extra poignancy and lends exceptional force to her works even today, and a meaning which transcends the terrible events of her times.

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Visiting her small exhibition at The South Bank Centre back in 1995 was one of the few occasions when I was reduced to tears, it was there that I really understood the words of Anatoly Lunarcharsky, the Russian People’s Commissar for Culture in 1927 who said “She aims at an immediate effect, so that at the very first glance, one’s heart is wrung, tears choking the voice”.

Image # 3