Following the Strokes Exhibition
Whether it was the medieval Black Death, which claimed the lives of 200 million Europeans between 1347-1351, or the much recent Spanish flu of 1918, which by some estimations claimed 100 million lives, artists have always found a way to document their contemporary experience. Take for example the 14th-century mural depicting Tournai Citizens Burying the Dead During the Black Death or the multiple Triumph of Death murals, where death is shown as a great equalizer in an otherwise hierarchical society.
In a sense, the pestilence or the pandemic has proven to be a puzzle for every age that considered itself ‘modern and developed’ until of course it was presented with a deadly disease that eradicated a significant section of the population in a jiffy. If we read literary works, such as Boccaccio’s The Decameron, Albert Camus’ The Plague or Daniel Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year, or look at Edvard Munch’s 1919 self-portrait as an ailing man that remains a chilling testament to his brush with death, it is uncanny how they all seem to reflect and respond to concerns and anxieties that are truly relatable, even in the 21st century. The human condition, despite scientific advancements, remains marked by human vulnerability, perhaps more starkly than ever before.
We at KCC had encouraged contemporary artists and enthusiasts to look at and respond to masters who have captured in their paintings, photographs and literary pieces the essence of living through a past endemic. The idea was to challenge the present-day practitioners to not only creatively engage with one’s own experience of the pandemic, but also to inspire them to revisit masters who have taken this path before. However, we have also accommodated some fascinating artworks that have only focused on the present-day experience of the pandemic.