Powerful gestures of hope

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Two of Banksy’s most famous iconic images

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This week I have been hobnobbing with the greats of old and contemporary art. Rembrandt and Banksy all within a stone’s throw of each other in the museum quarter in central Amsterdam. Both speak to me of the importance of art as a way to bear witness to the events and conditions of the time. Rembrandt painted about Dutch society in the 1600s and Banksy created his stencilled art works in the streets during this century.

The common theme in both works is the human heart, the gestures which we make as humans which reflect our passions and beliefs - powerful hand gestures that grasp a balloon of hope, or a gesture of love depicting the intimacy of a married couple in Rembrandt’s The Jewish Bride. Then there is the tension Banksy creates between the gesture of throwing like a rebel at a demonstration, and the object he is about to throw - flowers instead of a brick or homemade missile.

It gets me thinking about art that moves you to think differently about society, to bring hope in a time of chaos, to envisage a better world where flowers replace grenades. To arm yourself with a creative means of expression is empowering. It moves you into action, however small the gesture. It brings hope and joy into feeling like you can do something. And so step by step our small gestures become the flowers that replace guns.

Where do we stand and what do we stand for? Two images, a leopard and a barcode when combined in this way have so many layers of meaning. If such deceptively simple street art is a mirror, then let us all be artists and write, paint, stitch, mould and construct our expressions with whatever simple materials come to hand. We are given a voice through our creations, let us use it to make our thoughts heard.

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Heather Matthew