Berlin Liberation 1945
“Frau, komm” The Soviet soldier’s pidgin-German command to females he encountered became the words every woman in Berlin from 17 to 70 knew and dreaded”
From ‘The Berlin Wall’ by Frederick Taylor
Ukraine Liberation 2022
It seems despite the fall of the Soviet empire, the nature of the Russian male has not changed in 80years, and rapine and murder run wild and unconstrained through Ukrainian towns and cities crunched under the tracks of the Russian army’s armoured vehicles. This military winter, like every winter, however harsh, is followed by a springtime and a summer. Today we see the harbingers of that change as Ukrainian farmers tow disable armoured vehicles to sell for scrap to compensate for their lost crops or slaughtered cows.
In Britain we look on as the soldiers we trained use weapons we provide to destroy Russian armour, forcing Putin to proclaim he never intended to conquer the country, merely to liberate its Russian speakers. Can these weapons stop the ‘liberation’ of the areas bordering the Black Sea? Will the Ukrainians push on to repossess the Crimea? The questions hang heavy and threatening, as threatening as if they were heavy dark storm clouds on the summer horizon.
Germany recovered from its brutal defeat economically to thrive, and Ukraine will, with our help, win through to similarly rebuild its ravaged villages, towns, and cities. We cannot see the end game but whatever its nature the seasons will follow their inevitable cycle and we will help with regrowth and rebuilding. Ukraine dominates our news feeds in broadcast and social media alike.
At home too I look for regrowth. My work in the studio has flourished as my recovery from cancer has run its course. At the moment there is a temporary pause as I wait for my spine to be repaired from an injury that may even date back to my art student days of riding a motorbike with more bravado than skill, an ‘Easy Rider’ in mind only, but work still progresses in the studio. I continue to work on the Fisherman’s Nets series, really a sub-series springing out of the BRotS (see Trust in Rust | PatrickGoff.com) and realise that the last two preparatory paintings (and the one on canvas that is underway) all contain the colours of the Ukrainian flag. Subconscious at work? Seems likely as the choice of colour grew out of preceding works. The colours continue to reflect the deterioration of our neglected sea defences. The whole series over the last few years has reflected my own changes.
Coming out of cancer I continued to create works based in the flowers of my garden. This followed on from the works of my youth when flower paintings reflected my optimism in life. Similarly, paintings like ‘Windflower’
A country that is prepared to tear down reminders of its past and to become confused about its own genders is not one that is healthy, and I have come to see the paintings of the decay of our sea defences as symbolic of the moral decay of our nation.
It is a moral decay, alongside the material prosperity has brought wealth unimaginable to not just a few but to many, that threatens to destroy our national identity. People of my age remember ice on the inside of single glazed windows as they climbed out of bed in unheated bedrooms to go downstairs and light the fires in the kitchen boiler to heat hot water, and the living room fire to warm themselves by. Having to fill the coke scuttle from the outside coke store, where it was frozen into lumps, is an abiding childhood memory. Even in the 1970’s I was working as a dustman emptying shit pails in remote farms, and the last village to receive electricity in England wasn’t connected until the 1960’s. So having central heating, colour TV’s, mobile phones, cars, the world-wide-web etc. has brought individual material wealth well beyond the imaginings of most of my parent generation. But it has not brought pleasure in that achievement. Those who were without are being replaced by those who are just greedy and destructive.
Art is a mirror to the soul of not just the artist but the society it and they spring from. Is the dominance of a graffiti derived modern metier signifying a retreat from an intellectual search for beauty? Does the move to digital art continue the process of removing the artist as a part of his land, his country – something that has traditionally inspired the Monet’s and Turner’s of the art world – into an avatar with no loyalty to location?
The super-rich may buy islands but for most some personal mobility was a blessing – but also a curse as children moved further away from parents and family support mechanisms broke down. The ‘nuclear family’ as a concept seems to be under threat. A younger generation now needs to redefine family and nationality, bearing in mind that the behaviour of Russians shows that national characteristics remain immutable. Or maybe the value of their individuality will rise, driven by porn, bestial like. above love and family to consume all notions of society.
What can we see springing from those horizon war clouds?
The Beast is loose.
I paint therefore I am.
I am a mirror.