A series of 12 paintings about violence, 6 portraits of people who have been involved in violence, and 6 paintings of violent scenes.
The paintings present violence neutrally, without a moral judgment. The neutral presentation, combined with the inherent beauty of painting, offers the viewer an unusual opportunity to judge violence anew.
The people shown on these paintings come from very different cultural, social and political backgrounds. The series displays a wide arrange of motives to commit violence. For example, ranging from former Aryan Brotherhood gang member Michael Thompson to radical leftist and assassinator Volkert van der Graaf, and ranging from Daesh to Russian soldiers.
Violence seems to be everywhere and seems to be committed by very different people. Real life examples and research like the famous Stanford Prison Experiment, suggest that almost everyone is willing to commit violence given the ‘right’ circumstances. A truth our society generally doesn’t want to accept, and tries to deflect by scapegoating and black and white thinking. Yet, dividing the world into ‘good people’ and ‘monsters’ seems unrealistically simplistic.
The main question is: where does one’s own responsibility end, and when do external circumstances take over ? And, if self-responsibility is limited, to what extent is moral judgment justified ?
One thing is for sure: turning our heads away from violence won’t make it disappear. If anything, it will make matters worse. Shedding a neutral, abstract light on violence raises the opportunity to deal with violence in more constructive ways.