52 I Will Fly
Outside, while The Old Town Square is heaving, inside I am the only person having my brain re-wired. Eduard Steinberg – painter, philosopher, activist – is changing the way I think about art and the process of creating.
Steinberg was a Non-Conformist during the former Soviet Union. What this means in simple terms is that as his father was an intellectual Eduard was unable to study art. So his father would teach him and Robert would make and compelled, continue to do so, all the while politically unable to show work or collaborate with others. To be an artist was to live in danger. Thus his making of art was unofficial, pushed underground and subversive. For the great part of his career - from the 60’s to the 80’s – he became part of a dissident movement, supporting freedom of expression in arts and basic human rights.
I can’t even begin to understand what such repression means or how it effects the soul.
On the wall Steinberg’s dark, early portraits – captured moments of his family – morph and take shape as pastel abstractions and it is these that speak to me. Abstractions as Portraits, composed of lines and shape and colour and tension, so much so they leap from the wall and pull me in. As a dissident he felt his God keenly and looked to religion for understanding and to some degree, escape. The crucifix, fisherman and fish, symbols of mankind, images of humility, imbued with stories of simple needs and simple reasons for living, free of political complication and it was at this point, spending summers in Russia, post 1980, that shape and form of people began to re-emerge in his work.
In this art I found a life reflected and profoundly informed by direct the surroundings within which it was made. And it was this realisation that stayed with me as I re-enter the madness of the Square, thankful for being pushed to question and to recognise that I am fortunate to live with creative liberty surrounded by the freedom to make whatever I want, how I wish to make it. And most basically, to flaunt such luxuries, to not make as hard as I can, is to insult those who are not so free. Being a woman on the west, there is nothing that holds me back and I will fly.
Eduard Steinberg - From Moscow To Paris - Prague City Gallery