Saturday, 15 September 2012

Man with green hat


I recently visited the exhibition Art Against Oblivion - Visions out of the Inferno at Vienna's Art Forum am Judenplatz a stone's throw from Rachel Whiteread's holocaust memorial The Library and the Book.

It was my pleasure to meet Thomas Frankl, the son of the Slovakian born artist Adolf Frankl.

I was given permission to photograph examples of the works produced by Adolf Frankl during the years following the liberation of Auschwitz by the Red Army. I chose for my subject matter the two pictures shown here.

Concerning one of the reasons for producing his works the artist wrote:

Through my works 
I have created a memorial for 
all nations of the world. 

No one, 
regardless of religion, race or 
political conviction, should ever again 
suffer such - or similar - atrocities! 

Adolf Frankl was born in Bratislava in 1903 and died in Vienna, Austria, in 1983. From just these two small lands, Slovakia and Austria, a total of 125,000 Jews were taken to the Nazi death camps and exterminated - many of them being tortured, humiliated and brutalized prior to entering the gas chambers.


Tattooed with a sharp stick Adolf Frankl (inmate B 14395) was one of the few survivors of Ausschwitz-Birkenau. The titles of many of his paintings tell of cruelty, humiliation and horror: Excessive Flogging, Selection during Music, Before Gassing, Crematoria . . . etc..

We must be grateful to Adolf Frankl for these vivid images of terror which today serve as a warning to us all. We must be ever vigilant. We can never say It won't happen again. The truth is it can and it probably will. Rwanda and Cambodia come immediately to mind.

It seems that the world, from time to time, needs to be fed with a convenient scapegoat.

Jan Ateet  Frankl, the artist's younger son helped to span his father's canvases on frames. The artist painted with oil paints and turpentine; using palette knives, brushes and even his fingers. He worked without plan or model. Ghosts would simply rise and demand to be painted.

It was his creative attempt to overcome the incomprehensible and not become destroyed by it, says Jan Ateet in one of the information leaflets I was given.

Because of its subject matter the work often became so unbearable that the artist was forced escape to a nearby coffee house or some such place; but always behind him the paintings would be ordering him back to the small chamber in which he worked.

My title Man with a green hat has it basis in the post below titled Man with green hair. It concerns the rigid following of rules and the potential danger present in always doing so. I appreciate that there must certain basic rules so that we can all get along relatively harmoniously with each other, rules such as which side of the road to drive on, and that without these basic rules of behaviour life could become completely chaotic and extremely dangerous, as has been shown time and again. But on the other hand we should always question the rules, or the purpose of the rules, and ask ourselves why they are really there.

* * *

I particularly enjoyed this tasty quote from poet Robert Creeley whose bananaboxbargainbook Was That a Real Poem & other essays (pub. 1964 - Four Seasons Foundation, California) I am currently unpeeling:

There can no longer be a significant discussion of the meter of a poem in relation to iambs and like terms because linguistics has offered a much more detailed and sensitive register of this part of a poem's activity. 

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