Artist Statement by Kathrin Longhurst
“Forging of a Human Spirit” March 2017
Forging of a Human Spirit is a body of work in progress. “Forging” refers to the process of metal working whereby a metal can be hardened by applying pressure to it. Applying too much pressure can make the metal snap and break. The same goes for humans, in my opinion. A hallmark of very successful people I know is that they have, at some stage, experienced extreme hardship—out of which a strong desire to better their lives and make a difference for themselves and others was kindled. Some of the most inspirational people in my life have been through hell and back.
Borne out of my own experience of overcoming suppression and adversity—growing up in Former East Germany, a feeling of displacement and insecurity when moving to the West and later experiencing the devastating effects of schoolyard bullying with my own children—I felt the strong desire to turn dark and difficult experiences into something powerful and positive.
The creative process can have an enormous healing effect on anyone experiencing adversity. For my own family, it was a vital therapeutic tool in combating my daughter’s lack of confidence and self-worth when facing the soul-crushing effects of bullying. Painting her forged strong family bonds and increased self-confidence. It also made me realise that there were families who have experienced far more difficult challenges with their children. Their stories were worth being told and so a new body of work was started.
My vision was to focus on asylum seekers and refugees, but my criteria grew to include other traumas such as surviving natural disasters, the loss of loved ones, bullying and other life-changing events. The first ten or so paintings were all sourced from my own personal network and I am hoping to reach a wider group as the project evolves.
The choice of colour, compositional poses and painting style are all deliberate and symbolic. Referencing the hero images from my youth in Communist East, I wanted the faces of the children to tower over the viewer as larger than life heroes and idols—like monuments or sculptures, untouchable and strong. Leaving part of the faces as raw background symbolises the loss they have experienced, or the sacrifice they had to make. I deliberately chose to leave out the darkest areas of their faces as it is their darkest memories they are leaving behind. I opted for soft, subtle, earthy colours that almost dissolve into the background, to remind us of the children’s fragility and softness. My goal is for the project to be a positive experience for the children and their families alike and that the focus on them will make a difference to their lives.