The protagonist

Oil on wood Board || 2023

60 X 80 CM
Picture of the author
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This painting is my most visceral work. It was born out of anger towards Putin, his war and the devastation we are now used to seeing every day in the news as another daily anecdote. I am usually very calm and controlled when holding a brush but during this painting I had troubles controlling my emotions. It was also very clear to me that we are witnessing an almost cartoon-like personification of evil; a true villain, a bully, an imperialist lunatic; he believes the world can and should be subjected to his will.

Perhaps because he’s behind the cold-blooded murder of all passengers in flight MH17 and perhaps because I live in Europe and he has invaded one of our sovereign nations that it is impossible for me to continue doing something that we are all guilty of: looking the other way. Whether it is right or wrong to be affected by certain events more than others it still remains a reality. And my art is my reality.
I am angry. Angry that a dictator in this day and age has become a household name. A name we are used to hearing about every day in the media; another news item, another headline, another celebrity. His name will continue to live on in the pages of history and when one is reading a book it is easy to forget what is behind every page. What lies behind this chapter in 2022? Is Putin today’s protagonist? I am sure he thinks so; his dream of restoring the glory of the Russian empire went from madness to reality one night in February 2022.

However, when I look at the pages he is writing in our shared memory as humankind I fail to see his person. I see the people of Ukraine, their resilience, their fear, their desperation, their death and their hope. It reminds me of what I saw growing up in the Netherlands when I learnt about what happened when the Nazis invaded us. I see what I saw when my grandpa told me stories about the Second World War, how we suffered as a nation but also how we fought, how we failed, how we died and how we, in the end, lived on.

How many times have we wondered about Nazi Germany and asked: how could they let this happen? Why didn’t anyone do anything? I can’t help but ask myself the same question today, every night while I watch the news: how can we let this happen? Why aren’t we doing anything? Before I can come up with an answer I find myself watching a news item about the weather; the poles are melting, our climate is changing and hundreds die because of flooding. There was also a Champions League match last night; wow, what a goal! Almost at minute 90. I check my phone to see the other results but I get distracted by a video of a puppy. He’s so cute; I’m sharing it with my wife and we both smile. It is easy to get lost scrolling through countless videos of puppies, memes and lush holiday pictures.

It is, in fact, easier than ever to look the other way.