The Uncles

Saturday 8th February

Several years ago, shortly after starting the Silesia project, so that’s probably about ten years now because it was around this time of year too – my mothers birthday – I spoke to Mum about beginning this work. I’m reminded of this conversation because of the watercolour sketches I’m currently working on towards ‘Document Sudetenland’ based on iPad screen grabs from a YouTube video of the 1945 film of people in Sudetenland taken by American soldiers – the dead, the dying, the beaten up and raped, those on the move and those finally triumphant – a group spitting.

I asked Mum if there were any family photographs from Silesia. “Photographs?!” She exclaimed – she was pretty suspicious then about my motives for looking into all this about Silesia: “Why do you want to know?” she had asked earlier, and then I didn’t really know – “There aren’t any photographs. We had to GO! Many uncles didn’t come back!”

I didn’t raise the issue again, but that statement stayed with me. Both the urgency of the family having to leave with no possessions – just themselves – and the “many uncles” that I’d never heard of before or since.

Some years later, usually sat at the kitchen table late at night, I began to create a series of deliberately crude portraits of sorts – kind of invented memories, using my iPod Touch and the drawing app Adobe Ideas at its simplest setting – big fat marks that built up in layers to create ideas of faces, the beginnings of what might be personalities, my thinking about all these uncles I never knew of, who didn’t come back.

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