Why Art is important in times of crisis.
There is war.
Around the corner, near us.
But how close doesn’t matter.
There is war. In Europe. Again.
We’ve all seen incredible images seen only in movies and documentaries.
Sculptures and paintings taken to basements, sandbags protecting statues outdoors. Libraries emptied of books.
Cities are being stripped of beauty but they are doing it to protect cultural heritage.
People mobilize to preserve beauty.
Because art everywhere is the foundation of every civilization and must be preserved, especially in times of war.
War destroys people and all cultural manifestations.
Every picture destroyed, every work of art disintegrated, every museum bombed is to become inhuman, is to lose identity and beauty.
War makes us all inhuman.
And it takes us back centuries.
It brings famine, disease, destruction, death, genocide, mass graves, moral and civil tears.
And it annihilates every culture. Nothing else.
We do not know how many works of art have been destroyed in Ukraine so far, we certainly know that near Kiev the museum, opened in 1981, which housed the works of the naïf artist Mariia Prymachenko has been destroyed.
These works have been lost, their memory entrusted to archive images.
And who knows how many other museums of which we have no news, at the center of the conflict and therefore in unknown conditions.
War destroys art, war uses art for propaganda, uses it as blackmail between peoples.
So how important is art for people?
I would dare say that it is decisive, it is the basis of civil life, of self-expression and of society.
It heals the wounds of the soul, increases the beauty of the world. And it distances us from hatred, from ferocity, from every negative feeling.
For me as an artist, I believe that art comes immediately after the need for nourishment of the body.
It is no coincidence that in countries where religion imposes dogma, art is considered a negative thing, because it is free, it is individual, it is human expression, and therefore it cannot be controlled.
Two years ago I started a painting.
A rather large painting, my first painting that big. I needed space, to say many things.
It was about all those who try to cross the sea to escape wars, persecution, famine.
The ones we look at with annoyance or indifference, because they disrupt our comfortable daily lives.
Without difference of color or age.
Then came the pandemic and all my concern went there.
That painting remained on the wall with less than ten faces and everyone who saw it asked me when I would finish it.
I didn’t know, I felt it wasn’t the time.
Don’t ask me why, sometimes it’s a gut thing.
I didn’t want to convey my fears, I wanted to convey the fears of others and the pandemic involved me too personally to talk about others.
January and February 2022 have been really dark months.
We’re alive, that matters, that’s the bottom line.
But as the pandemic eases, along comes a war, in Europe.
And we return to dark thoughts related to World War II or a hypothetical atomic war.
So, almost in a trance, on the first day of the assault on Ukraine at the end of February, I took out my paints and brushes and my head was pounding with Bertolt Brecht (if you haven’t read Life of Galileo, I recommend it) and his marvelous phrase that makes Galileo say: ” Unhappy is the land that needs heroes“.
I also painted in the evening, despite the low light.
The cry and the fear I threw into the color.
My heroes are normal people who find themselves fighting something they don’t know. They are afraid but they react. They know they might die but they go on anyway. They are everyday heroes, small, defenseless but big in facing something huge.
There is war, we don’t know how it will end and we don’t know how we will get out of it.
My painting “Heroes” tells of human despair, fear, the effort to live.
Its colors are bright because I am convinced that human beings can be better than they seem. Because I always want to have hope for redemption.
And I am convinced that art can witness reality and can read it.
I want to witness my time and I want to tell every side of humanity.
I can fight with art and culture.
And I can also understand that culture must act as a bridge between peoples and improve everyone’s life.
So I’m for dialogue even with Russian dissidents, with the Russian people who are suffering from the tyrant and who would like the war to end as much as we do.
War is never a good thing for anyone and we should stop going back to prehistoric times with bloodshed.
Russia like Ukraine like Europe and like the rest of the world is literature, theater, politics, visual art, music, science and much more.
There is a dictator but he does not represent all the people and there is no people who are entirely black or white.
I live in an imperfect democracy but I can say and do what I want and my paintings are not in lists of degenerate art.
So let’s start from here.
We try to react to war by building, by pacifying. And by dividing culture from censorship.
There is no me without you, peace starts from this.
No attempt at rhetoric, so dangerous in a war.
At this moment my art is also political.
An artist must speak about society, putting aside fear.
Heroes is finished, and soon I will finish a small series of heroes that I will put up for sale to get a percentage to donate to the Red Cross.
My painted heroes want to help others. Because art can also be queat, charity and message.
But they are heroes in the sense of Bertolt Brecht: no more war, no more destruction, no more blood.