In the Absence of Light Painting by Robert Vanderhorst

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Art Description

Painting: Oil on Other.

Description: I was originally inspired to do this painting by a photograph. The photo was a haunting image a young Afghan girl standing before a burned out Russian tank. It was taken by my dear friend, Mike Frastacky two years before he was murdered by the Taliban for funding and building a school for the children of the village of Nahrin in Northern Afghanistan. In memory and homage to Michael, I decided to create a painting that spoke to the misery, dynamics and history of war and mankinds unending desire for peace for the children of our future.
A young Afghan girl stands in a large room staring directly towards us. Her haunting gaze and sad expression give us an insight into the suffering she’s endured.

The space in which she stands is reminiscent of a room in the British Museum which houses the Parthenon Marbles. The ceiling is open to the elements and the friezes along each wall no longer depict glorious battles from Greek history but now are symbolic of the violence of all wars. The stone is alive and bleeding, a hellish, permanent reminder of the destruction and suffering that comes with violent conflict.
A sculpture of a dismembered tank stands alone in the room, the barrel slightly lowered in defeat but still ominously pointing as a possible threat. Two generals guised as polo players enter the room from opposite directions. Their game is about to begin. Power is the motivation and the damage and misery caused as a consequence of their battle is irrelevant. Victory is the only goal that matters. Two peasants with brooms in hand stand ready to clean up the debris left behind.
As a commentary on the transitive nature of nations, a large Easter Island statue stands in the middle of the room, balancing precariously on a thin pinnacle. Low stanchions placed to protect the relief sculptures become confusing escape ladders running along each side wall. One such ladder appears overtly out of place over a baseboard and then disappears into an atmospheric floor. The top of a nearby bench becomes a skyscape retreating into the floor and offering another possible escape portal.
The young girl’s expression is one of sadness. Her eyes are caught in shadow and at first glance, seem empty. Looking deeper into the darkness, the space comes alive. Stars appear, emblematic of her hope and desire for a new life. Her clothing is also a symbol of hope. The blouse is made of coloured glass, inspired by the magnificent stained glass windows of the Chartes Cathedral located just outside of Paris. The leaves in her brightly patterned jacket become 3 dimensional and begin to fly away like doves in a gentle breeze.

Michael Frastacky’s wish for the children of Nahrin in Northern Afghanistan was for peace, hope and freedom through education. His effort in building this school embodies what it means to be a Canadian and highlights Canada’s current commitment to stability, peace and a positive future for the people of Afghanistan.

His school remains as a light in the darkness for almost 600 children.





In the Absence of Light

Robert Vanderhorst



Size: 28 W x 22 H x 0.1 in

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Artist featured in a collection

Artist Recognition

Artist featured in a collection

Artist featured by Saatchi Art in a collection