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Postcards from the edge of war
Fear in the eye of a horse in battle and tender words scribbled in haste on the back of a World War One postcard are just two of the striking images in Watford artist Glynnis Abraham’s latest collection.
“As an artist, I love all kinds of imagery and at that time postcards were hand painted and sent six times a day,“ says Glynnis. “You’d send a postcard just to meet somebody and have a cup of tea. They were postcards I collected as a youngster and I came across a few from World War One that passed between Gladys in Ware and Albert in France – I can’t make out the surnames.
“The cards had obviously been handled by people and meant so much to both of them. The paintings echo this distance and that sense of not knowing whether or not they would see each other again. I don’t know if they did.“
Glynnis has deliberately steered away from researching the families of the pair. “I thought it might be a bit of an intrusion.
“I’ve always been interested in primary sources in history but the main point of the exhibition was how communication was censored – and they couldn’t say much. Everybody was left so frustrated by being unable to contact their love ones. The messages on the cards are so polite and they’re incorporated into the paintings, so I can just about read them.“
Glynnis feels she could go on adding to this series of images for at least another year.
“We were in France this summer visiting the Etaples Military Cemetery, which is one of memorial areas dedicated to World War One soldiers who were on average only 18 years old. The words on their gravestones were too painful to write down but you really felt you were among people who had suffered and that’s really why I did this little snippet about the consequences of war.“
Born in South Africa, Glynnis came to Britain in 1964. Taught by Peter Shmidt and with visiting lectures from graphic designer Abraham Games and musician Brian Eno, Glynnis fondly remembers her time at Watford Art School in the early ’80s.
“I was 19 and I was so green, I had no idea who Brian Eno was. Then he played one of his albums, Before and After Science and Peter created watercolours for it. Peter would be there painting, Hans-Jörg Mayer did the printing and Brian made the music for the albums.“
She went on to study art therapy at Goldsmiths and became a practising therapist. Her career and artistic output has been interrupted by years of dialysis. She is now on her second kidney transplant which is in its ninth year.
“I was hospitalised three times a week for 11 years, so there was a big break when I was not creative at all. On dialysis you’re on very strong medication and it cripples the body. I have one artery left pumping away at my heart. That’s why transplants are vital. One day I might do dialysis as a theme, especially as I’m trained as an art therapist.
“For my thesis, I spent three months in the dialysis unit at St Thomas’ Hospital in London after my first transplant. The person I worked with received a transplant quite quickly and he really enjoyed the sessions. He was able to express his anger and a lot of other emotions – art is a great form of therapy.“
A selection of Glynnis’ World War One images, along with some of her more abstract paintings are on display at The Radlett Centre, Aldenham Avenue, Radlett from October 2-31.