1945 to 2013 in one painting
Untitled (with lipstick) 2011
by Angela Findlay
My most recent solo show Fragments of time at McAllister Fine Art in Godalming is entering its final week. It shows work combining photographic collage and oil and is a development of ideas and techniques that led to a collaboration with John Helseltine and a joint exhibition Filling the cracks in 2011
Reflecting on the paintings I find myself wondering where to next? This body of work has been the result of several years of an on-going interest in capturing glimpses of the everyday, usually overlooked and yet often very beautiful testimonies to peoples’ lives within the privacy of their homes. Initially I worked from a dawning sense of the fragility of what we call “home”, a paradox in the face of the security and consistency we seek there.
In 1945 as an eleven year old German girl, my mother fled her home with her younger sister, the approaching Russian army a mere 40 miles away. The few stories of her childhood experiences float silently in my imagination, their edges blurring with those of my own memories. The implications of her sparse accounts didn’t register fully until I was older. But the images she sketched of a Berlin in flames, the train station heaving with jostling people, and the agonising choice of which doll to take – the beloved but threadbare one or the brand new one from her father on leave from the front? – began to provide a source of inspiration for my work.
My mother’s home was taken over by the Russians, the seats of the chairs slashed in search of money and valuables. All was lost except what they could carry with them. Their home disintegrated. Yet the building still stands. I visited it a few years ago, wandered around imagining those that inhabited its tall-ceilinged rooms after they had left. And then later, through the Soviet occupied times. If I scratched at the predictably white wood chip paper that plasters the walls of so many German homes today, filling the cracks, creating a crisp, clean albeit bumpy, blank surface for the next occupiers, would I stumble on traces of the colours and patterns they chose to line their world? Would I come closer to understanding what happens when your world falls apart and vanishes?