It’s unusual these days, in Victoria, to come across a show of paintings that deals with a major international topic especially a topic so fraught with pitfalls as the Israel/Palestine problem.
Two people with a claim to the same land. Both passionate about their rights. Neither trusts the other. Occupation, settlement, annexation, the language used to describe the situation is a minefield in itself. Does the Israeli claim come from God? Does this make Palestinians less than human? Perhaps it only makes sense to people who live there, the indigenous Palestinians and the Zionists.
How can outsiders be objective? What are impartial atheists supposed to make of it all? We’re told it’s the Promised Land, God Himself gave it to the Jews, but what if you don’t believe in an Old Testament deity? Is it all an ancient myth that culminated in modern social injustice? Is Israel an apartheid state?
So many questions. So many conflicting answers. We hear a lot about a ‘two-state solution’ but is it all just talk?
Frances Baskerville is best known for her depictions of dancers often caught in moments of ecstatic release. In her show ‘Two Worlds’ she has taken a giant leap into a subject most artists prefer not to explore. Some of her dancers appear on one wall of the gallery. On the opposite wall she has obviously decided to confront the Israel/Palestine question head-on and she could well take some flak for it.
A lot of energy has gone into these paintings and she clearly feels strongly about the situation. She presents us with facts. Bulldozers, olive trees being destroyed, the wall. It’s hard for anybody to be completely neutral and I asked her about her own personal involvement.
She has followed the situation closely since 1969. Her main concern she says is the imbalance in the media. She doesn’t believe the Palestinian voice is being heard. If the situation is ever to change she believes pressure must be put on the Israeli government. She sees hopeful signs in the BDS movement and among young Jewish activists. She feels strongly enough to make her own contribution to their efforts.
The paintings are both artistically pleasing and powerful. Will they have much impact on the Middle East dilemma? Probably not but Frances Baskerville has taken on a highly controversial subject in her own way. She deserves credit for her courage.
Martin Batchelor Gallery
Aug. 29 to Oct.1, 2015