My piece is based on a text I received. This text describes a scene of a family sitting round a dinner table, reacting to what appears to be good news coming from a radio.
I decided to add some historical context to my depiction of this scene.
It is the Night of November 9th 1989. East Germans have just heard/saw Schabowskis’ broadcast that the Berlin Wall would be opened.
Sat round a table, surrounded by typical ‘trapped in the 1970s’ East German interior decorating, this ‘family’ of six young artists are simultaneously surprised and pleased to hear the news coming from the radio. This may mean more artistic freedom for them, and the possibility of being able to work as full time artists. Evidence of their beliefs are scattered around the room; unfinished protest posters illustrating their want for unity, and a poster from Bruce Springsteens’ infamous Rocking The Wall concert of the previous summer.
The piece was created with acrylic and gesso on a wooden board, with a base sketch in graphite.
In order to give the painting the appropriate 1980’s East German aesthetic, I chose a clashing colour palette typical of the time period, reminiscent of a plate of fish and chips. Sickly orange for the walls, a dark sappy green for the carpet, with greys, whites, blacks, browns and flesh tones populating the rest of the image. The wavy strokes of the sponge brush I used to paint the wall and carpets emulate the common pattern style used for such things during that time period.
The overall aesthetic of the piece is deliberately grotesque, sickly and mushy, providing a step back in time for the viewer, and a metaphor for the deeper, stifling unrest many people faced. The faces of the figures are blurred and featureless; indicative of how the reaction to the news can be applied not just to one family, but the many people residing in East Berlin.
Before I painted the piece, I watched Wolfgang Beckers film ‘Good Bye Lenin!’, and used this as a reference for the interior design, and choice of clothing for the figures in the scene. I also researched the popular GDR magazine ‘Sibylle’ to inform my choice of clothes for the figures –black and white stripes being a popular choice.
The portrait works of Egon Schiele were also a key influence in my work, as they provided examples of how to incorporate similar colour schemes with flesh tones. I was also intrigued with the peculiar, subtle quality in the gesture of each of his portraits, which I was keen to attempt to recreate.