September 26, 2010

The Darker Side of Art

Sometimes, the world of art has it's shadows.  Last night, for movie night, R and I watched The Counterfeiters.  Set in a German concentration camp in the last few years of WWII, the film tells the story of a group of prisoners involved in the "largest forgery operation of all time". The men, printmakers and artists in their pre-concentration camp lives, were forced to make fake passports, birth certificates, and money: British pounds and American dollars. 

The story came to light less than ten years ago, when one of the survivors of the operation decided to write a book about his time in the camp, in answer to a flood of neo-Nazi "holocaust denial" propaganda.  He traveled around Europe, collected his evidence and wrote the book.  

It was a sad and deep film and it really got me thinking about how fortunate most of us living in the "western world" really are.  We don't have to grapple with the tough choices faced by the men in that Nazi printing shop. There's no one holding a gun to our heads as we create our art, as it suits us and according to the level of drive within us.  Sure, we have our dark days where we question the quality and meaning and worth of the work we create.  But that's minor stuff.  In general, life is good.  

Yet what if, as it happened to the artists in the film, our sane world unexpectedly went sideways and the only outlet for our talent would be as the means to an end we know is morally wrong?  Could it be anything but soul-destroying to know your creativity is being used for the propagation of evil?  It isn't a new story; artists living under political oppression still face such issues even while I take my own freedom for granted.  It's so easy to forget just how lucky I am to have that freedom and sometimes it's good to have a dark sad film to serve as a reminder. 


I continued work on my next print today which, as you may remember, is based on the sand dollar photo below. 

I printed the first colour last week but there wasn't much to it so I held off on posting it.  Below are the first and second colours:

I'm printing onto BFK Rives heavy weight and began with the Georgian oil paint and printmaking medium combo I rediscovered during my ink experiment.  So far, the only draw-back is that, in N's words, our kitchen smells like pumpkin.  Judging by the inflection in her voice, I don't think she likes it.  It's true the paints have a distinctly different smell from my normal Daniel Smith inks which wasn't as noticeable during the experiment because I only used this mixture for four prints.  Now there's twelve of them so it's much more potent.  Funny, I don't remember that from before.  On the other hand, it is pumpkin season right?


Libby Fife said...

Pumpkin season it is! Funny thatthe ink smells that way.

I bet there are just a lot of things we take for granted, free expression in our art being just one. Good commentary and perspective for a time that must have been very, very hard.

Katka said...

Thank you Libby. I read somewhere recently that no one ever has to suffer through hardship greater than what they can endure (or something along those lines). But I don't know if that's true. If whatever someone is going through kills them, have they endured?