Art Blog

Welcome to Paul’s Blog-Spot

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I have decided to write a few words about art, artist's, and about people I admire... 

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It is important for me to mention at the outset of this blog, an heroic man, and a great humanitarian; a Russian, his name is Stanislav Petrov – the noblest man of the twentieth century.  Petrov is a highly significant human being, and his achievement is immense, humbling, and mind-blowing.  All this and I bet you have never heard of him?   

This is what happened:  On the twenty sixth of November 1983, Petrov, then a Colonel in the Soviet army, was on duty at Serpukhov – 15; a forward observation bunker whose purpose was to watch the skies for incoming ICBM’s, “Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles”.   

On that night the alarms sounded, the computer monitors, with their maps of the world lit up and the trajectories of four nuclear warheads started to be plotted on the screens.  The nuclear missiles all were headed directly towards Moscow, apparently the Americans had started a nuclear war!  As the Coronel in charge of the facility that night, it was Petrov’s job to phone his superiors and to give the warning, then all hell would have let loose, there would have been an automatic response from the Russian side as they fired off their nuclear warheads straight back at the USA. 

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If the Soviet military had reacted as they had been trained to do, the world as we know it would have ceased to exist; it certainly would have been the end of human civilisation, and this is no exaggeration.  Our lives, our world, humanity would have become nothing more than darkened ash, and fowl smelling dust.  Fortunately, for us, Colonel Petrov was on duty that fateful night and he literally saved the world; he rescued all of us, from our collective folly.  Without his presence of mind and calm response to the events of that night, there would have been nothing left.  He had the courage to disbelieve what the alarms and the computers, and view screens were telling him; he determined that this was a false alarm, that the computers had got it wrong.  Later that night the same thing happened again: the alarms sounded, the view screens showed yet more ICBM’s being fired by the Americans at Russia; at that moment Petrov’s heart must have been fit for bursting.  What if this wasn’t a false alarm, what if those nuclear warheads hurtling towards Mother Russia were real; and in the next eight minutes Moscow had been destroyed.
And out of weakness and indecisiveness on his part, he had ignored the warnings and his country, his beloved home land, the one spot on the planet most precious to his heart, had been destroyed; blown up in one colossal blast of fearsome energy.  Leaving only radiation, and the debris of the cities of a once proud Russian people, scattered on a blackened earth.  There being nothing left to be handed onto posterity, no inheritance to be given to children yet unborn; there being nothing left and nobody left to procreate the species, even memories of how life used to be before the catastrophe, are burnt up in the deadly fire.  And if there is any possibility of a remembrance, and who is there that can deny it with any certainty? that this memory could only be of an immense brightness in the sky; and a whirl of wind so violent and penetrating that to see it, and to experience such unbridled power, is to find oneself to be an echo and a ghost, a shadow being, silently murmuring.

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All of these thoughts must have been going through Petrov’s mind; at that fateful moment, he would have been experiencing an agony like no other; the responsibility on his shoulders was immense and tortuous, even unbearable.  What must he do, if he does nothing what will be the consequence of his inaction; or if he decides to act and gives the warning to his superiors, what then would happen, might he be the individual responsible that brings about a nuclear Armageddon?  The upshot of it all is he came to the conclusion that the Americans, though the adversaries of his country, were not mad, they were not senseless killers, a reckless and unfeeling people that would unleash an unthinkable destruction on his country; and that the alarms therefore must be false; that the technology had got it wrong, that the flawless unerring computers has got it wrong, that the whole incident and nightmare of that night was a great mistake. 

 He was right! 

 Without Stanislav Petrov at his post that night, things might have turned out very differently, we will never know.  Despite this incident, and the destructive consequences if events had unfolded in a different way; the people of the world show no signs of changing, or of achieving any greater degree of enlightenment or maturity; instead we continue to act in the same old way, as if nothing had happened that night at forward observation bunker Serpukhov – 15.   Commenting on his experience, and what he had learned from it, Stanislav Petrov said something which impressed me hugely: “the best way to destroy an enemy is to make him your friend”.  Wiser words have never been spoken.

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This is really an explosive, turbulent, violent, and unhappy world we live in; the truth is I find it all unsettling and frightening. The ubiquitous presence of TV sets in our homes has brought the worldly chaos alarmingly into all out living rooms. In short, the world has speeded up exponentially; and both old and young live fast lives. The world is getting smaller, and smaller, all the time, and this is especially true of our electronic communications. The TV; the computer; the internet: and all that now must necessarily follow. Well if the truth be known, I find all this a little overwhelming.

Now this is a very peculiar way to begin a blog-spot talking about art. I am sure that many readers will complain, saying, “What on earth is he talking about?” This is an understandable reaction; I am in full sympathy with you. Then again I will justify my impertinence in talking in this way by reference to art and its definition; and what it means to me. I envy those artists that relax in to their work as if they are reclining into an easy chair. I have heard many an artist say that they find relaxation when painting, that the act of painting is a balm to a troubled mind. And this attitude, (and it is a right attitude!) is what has given us art therapy, art clubs, and restful holidays in some sunny or picturesque place; where a person can escape the untidiness of the city and of modern life, contemplate a “view” or a “landscape” and melt away into the creation of an image, a scene, a pastoral heaven – and why not!

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Unfortunately, or perhaps ,fortunately this is not how I am as an artist, it is not how I experience art and it is not how I make a painting. In truth I am cursed with the modern (or not so modern!) blight of an unstill and troubled nature. I see and hear the loud cries of pain and suffering of my fellow human beings, and I feel all too acutely their sorrow, pain, and lack of a secure and calm centre to their lives. I watch TV and I see the bombs drop; I witness the anguish of the people; the drowning youth, the lost child. Sometimes the sight of all these sufferings is much too hard to bear. Over my life time I have observed a continual warfare between peoples. My early education chomped its way through a history of invasions and tribal conflicts, these conflicts only grew bigger and more destructive when the first nation states came in to being. A deep and lasting impression was made upon me, by what is now a long forgotten conflict: the Vietnam war; and by my reading and watching TV documentaries on the Great war in Europe, and the Second World War. It is not any kind of exaggeration to say that these “mental” events formed me and informed the maturation of my conscience.

So the upshot is that the world is going to hell in a handcart! There is inevitability about the eventual destruction of the human world! That either through a natural disaster brought about by climate change; or by the release of some kind of toxin, or biological agent, into the environment; or by destructive war, we are certain to wreak havoc and to finally destroy ourselves. One answer to this eventuality is the practise of art and poetry; another is either the practise of philosophy or religion. My blog-spot shall contain a little of each of these disciplines. Not as in any way an academic thesis (pray keep me safe and far away from all schools, universities; and places of learning! I have had enough of this sort of stuff; it is proper when young to be so influenced, I have reached a certain age of maturity, and these things no longer interest me, as they did previously.) No, what I write is homespun and a rough and ready knowledge and a type of unwisdom, readers beware.

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