Painting my protest
The Defence Security Equipment International (DSEI) is the world’s largest arms fair.
Over 30,000 people attend from over 50 countries, including representatives from some
of the most oppressive regimes in the world. The fair takes place in the docklands, in the
East End of London. This area was the most heavily bombed part of the UK in World
War Two. I find it deeply offensive that a place which suffered such carnage is now the
place where our modern tools of destruction are being promoted. In the week of the
arms fair, about 700 Quakers gathered for meetings for worship on the road that the
lorries were using for bringing in the exhibits.
I chose not to go, but to paint my protest.
Image by Raphael Raz
I came across the image of the man's eyes, painted some years ago, and I realised I
could finally use it. I built up the background using paint, ink, tissue paper and masking
tape to suggest chaos, energy and a dark mood. A depressing afternoon was spent
sketching possible images of war. Increasingly though I found myself drawn to the
images that portrayed the horrific consequences for those caught up in the violence.
Often the suffering caused to people is described as “collateral damage”. I dislike this
phrase intensely as it deliberately distances the perpetrator from those affected and
takes away their humanity.
I worked intuitively, deciding on where to position each image until I had filled the
canvas. It shaped itself into 'his' memories, and can be read as his story. However, I now
see that two women, one younger and one older, actually take centre stage in the
The single figure of a soldier I could have made stronger as an image but I decided that I
liked his nonchalantly dominant stance and that he observes and stays in the shadows.
When finished I wondered if it was too busy but I decided that this work reflects the fact
that war is busy, is chaotic and is messy. I also decided that everyone except the man
would be faceless. More and more often now weapons are fired from a long way away.
The victims of war are thus made faceless, their identities stripped away.
The word STOP I chose to leave faint. Fighting for your survival takes all your strength –
so we must do all we can to work for peace on their behalf.
This is why and how I was guided to paint my protest against the Arms Fair.
if you would like to donate towards stopping the production and sale of arms please go
to this website: Stop the Arms Fair.