“What to paint was a problem for the war artist… the old heroics, the death and glory stuff, were gone forever… the impressionistic technique I had developed was now ineffective, for visual impressions were not enough.” – A.Y. Jackson
I continue today to honor Veteran’s Week here in Canada with another painting by A.Y. Jackson – Group of Seven member, World War I veteran and war artist.
This painting is eerie in that you may be tempted to think there are fireworks going off in the distance. In reality, Jackson was witnessing a gas attack on German lines. The distance and seeming detachment from something so awful gives a false impression of peace. When I read news today of conflict far off, I find that my own distance from that reality leads to a detachment. In many ways, we’re all of us like Jackson on that hillside viewing something far off that is deadly and horrific yet we don’t connect with it in any real way.
Putting a human face on the very inhumane experiences of war, be it the soldier or civilian, is a way for us to enter into the fear, anger, pain and lose they felt. For me, this is an important way to remember and to honor, as well as to work to see it never happens again. Only by making it as real as we can will we be motivated to bridge that gulf of detachment and work for peace.