LIKE AN AXE IN HARD FROZEN
of the cycle of paintings
Girl and the wolf
of Saar Roelofs
by Hans Paalman
(1932 – 2007)
director Municipal Museum Schiedam
on the occasion of the
War Museum Overloon, The Netherlands
introduction is published in the exhibition catalogue, 1998
is like an axe in hard frozen ice." This expression of the writer
Franz Kafka (1883-1927) can certainly be applied to the plastic arts.
For in the plastic arts the artist confronts the spectator with a visual
presentation which can be moving, beautiful or shocking; sometimes the
artist shows us a mirror of her or his own soul, sometimes a mirror of
mankind. Such a mirror of man, his thoughts and his motives is the
pictorial epic of Saar Roelofs.
cycle of paintings The Girl and the Wolf, partly inspired by the
book of Simon Wiesenthal Max and Helen, shows us almost in a
physical way the story of the girl and the wolf. Through twenty-four
canvases, subdivided into eight triptychs, the majority of which are
painted in black and white, Saar Roelofs tells the story of the dramatic
life of the girl.
The canvases are introvert, with depiction's of human figures who are
not put in an environment or framework, but who tell us their story in
an utter loneliness. In some of the canvases color is used only to
depict the most cruel, the most dishonoring, and the most humiliating
Like Picasso in his magisterial canvas Guernica Saar Roelofs
achieves with her grey and white colors a dramatic tension. Whereas
Picasso's Guernica is the shroud of the holy Basque city of
Guernica, Saar Roelofs' work of art is the shroud of the numberless
victims of rape and genocide in the concentration camps.
Santa Sindone, called the shroud of Turin, was in the last years
of the eighties considered as the shroud in which Jesus was buried. The
linen shows an anatomically correct negative of a dead man who died by
crucifixion. Picasso's Guernica looks like a grey-white shroud,
because this enormous canvas gives the impression of a fragile piece of
linen. But the sight of this canvas - for me in 1965 in the Museum of
Modern Art in New York - brings about an intense shock. It makes one
realize that Guernica in 1939 was the forerunner of the violence which
would break out later.
The phrase "watchfulness is demanded" by the progressive and
left artists in the thirties is visualized in this canvas of Picasso.
work of Saar Roelofs also calls for watchfulness. This epic was created
building on the attainments of illustrious predecessors like Munch
and Goya, and also inspired by photos of wars. Standing before this work
of art, names of destruction camps like Sobibor, Auschwitz and Dachau
come into mind, but also Japanese camps, the camps of Stalin and the
camps of Pol Pot and recently Omarska... Also the massacres in villages
in Rwanda and Algeria...
is demanded. The moving and impressive work of Saar Roelofs compels us
to keep watchful.
artist can hold up a mirror: the mirror of mankind. The artist brings a
message. Let us comprehend this message in the meaning of Franz Kafka's
expression: "Art is like an axe in hard frozen ice".
by the artist