I take courage from an idea by Gandhi, which I paraphrase:
Love must exist, it must be powerful – otherwise how is it that human beings survive even with all the awful things we perpetrate upon the world? Gandhi points out that history is full of news of trouble, hurt and catastrophe, but it neglects to speak of the persistence of love that occurs in our everyday. This love manifests in acts of forgiveness, of compassion, courage, kindness, patience, gentleness- often found in domestic life, family, and friendship- that are taken for granted and go without remark, yet keep our world alive and intact.
When I was working with material that eventually became the exhibition, The Other Side of War, I would often say, “I just want to make art about flowers.” After that exhibition, I began learning about the German Resistance and realised how much the motif of the rose featured in that story: from the name of the resistance group “The White Rose” to the Rosenstrasse protests. For me the rose became the antidote to the swastika. It spoke to me about love being the antidote to violence. I realised that I had the idea I needed to fulfill my desire to make work about flowers.
By using portraits of roses from my everyday life and neighbourhood, I incorporated into the the story of resistance, my own endurance beyond childhood violence that had its origin in my German father’s experience of the Second World War. It is an underlying compassion that enables recovery and allows me to recognise the moments of beauty and love that are embedded in the difficulty of my family’s story.
The series is called Meditations on the Persistence of Love in a Time of Disaster. Three of the large panels were shown in the exhibition History as Personal Memory ( February 2018.). The first six were made between November 2017- February 2018. The second set of six between December, 2019 and mid-March 2020. It felt fitting to me that they were completed just as our worldwide lock- down for Covid 19 began. Since then, we’ve had the wisdom of Gandhi being lived out in front of our eyes.
We are seeing in the midst of fear and uncertainty, small everyday acts of compassion and kindness in quiet and intimate moments between friends, family and strangers. We see all around us -most visibly and noisily expressed through childlike hearts in windows and the banging of domestic pots- the recognition of essential workers and others who keep our world going. In these small persistent acts we are bearing witness to the presence of love that gives hope and courage in this dark time of pandemic.
Images: These large drawings are covered with the presence of roses, made with resist materials such as wax, china pencil and glue, that maintain a sense of presence despite dense layers of ink and darkness.