Jeff’s dramatic and vibrant works made a very positive impact at the opening. He disclosed the intellectual and highly personal journey behind his art.
“My very early pieces were influenced by Bridget Riley and The Imperial War Museum and involved me photographing and transforming the images before screen printing them. Last October my then tutor, Colin Lloyd, suggested that could I could engage further by exploring my family history. I was born in Manchester in 1944 during the war. I thought about what this meant to me and in my mind I visualised darkness. I therefore depicted the war as darkness with lighter periods before and after.”
Many of Jeff’s relatives from Holland perished in concentration camps. “Even little babies like my grandchildren were rounded up and killed. I expressed this danger with a red section within the black. The world needs to be alerted to and respond to danger.
I had been to see Mark Rothko’s exhibition at Tate Modern. He was a depressive and eventually committed suicide and in reaction to this I realised that I am an optimist. When I consider what has happened to me in terms of illnesses during the last fifteen years I could easily have given up. But I am always hopeful and I wanted to incorporate this by taking the white areas from the image and substituting them for colour. Blue denoted the colour of Judaism, being the colour used to proclaim the state of Israel in 1948, and yellow represented hope.
I adapted this in other pieces to show additional conflicts. Growing up in the 1950s I was very aware of the Spanish Civil War and Korean War, so I used three bars of red. I then wondered about the scale of war and genocide over a longer period and researched this extensively, arriving at a figure of 160 million slaughtered over a century and recorded in a book exhibited alongside my work. This murder is still going on around the world and we let it happen. This caused me transform three red bars into a multiple ones showing these lives lost.”