The invasion of Ukraine by Russia in 2022 and the horrific and tragic images of displaced, injured and dead Ukrainian children, seen daily in the media, moved me to paint these works. Their plight is not the only one, nor is it solely of this time and place. I come from a generation whose parents were directly involved in a global war, and I married a man who grew up in Eastern Europe during World War 2, and who later became a political refugee starting a new life on the other side of the world. I know first-hand the effects on those who survive the horrors – horrors which continue to touch their own wives, children and grandchildren. I fear for the children of Ukraine, and all those other children in Africa, Afghanistan, Syria, and even my own country – untouched directly by war but where thousands of children are fed by charities every day because of poverty arising from unsustainable rises in the costs of living.
The global nature of the effects of war, famine, abuse and poverty on children is referenced by my use of a circular support for this series of paintings. The colours recall the flag of Ukraine, but the techniques used relate to my previous work about the environment on which humankind as a whole is waging war. The first painting in this series recalls the shock of war, like a flood when a dam bursts. In the second work, children and fractured families are scattered across the globe. The third work can be interpreted as the ongoing generations of those scattered people, who find themselves in a world which may no longer be able to support them because of the global “war’ that humankind has inflicted on its own home – pollution, destruction of the natural environment, desertification of once-liveable places.
In this series I use the title of a poem by Joseph Kerschbaum, Where Have All the Children Gone, which in turn may have been inspired by Pete Seeger’s anti-war song from 1955 Where Have All the Flowers Gone. Ironically, Seeger’s words were based on a traditional Cossack folk song Koloda-Duda, referenced in the 1934 novel And Quiet Flows the Don, by Russian author Mikhail Sholokhov (whose mother was born in Ukraine).
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