In Displaced, zoomorphic creatures inhabit a corner of post-war Europe. Through the creatures, Nina Keri explores her grandmother’s experience of war, displacement and the fracturing of maternal lines.
“There is a photo of a Christmas play at the Russian Club. Four children dressed as various animals look out at us. Behind them stands a tall ominous St Nikolas in a smiling mask. Behind him a huge Russian flag fills the background. They are lit by a startling globe of light from above. There is a strong sense of foreboding, the children look frightened. One of them is my mother.
My Grandmother and my Mother were classed as Displaced Persons for their entire lives in Austria, never allowed to become citizens of that country. An easily missed detail amogst the human causalities of war. Displaced Persons will build upon my last two exhibitions, Auslander and Dunkel und Hell. It will continue my exploration into the matriarchal, generational stories of my Grandmother’s life in Ukraine and Austria during and after World War Two.
My artistic journey continues to involve trying to connect with and release the emotional life of my Grandmother. Many of her experiences were unspoken, yet they permeate my life. My paintings are based mostly on stories that I gleaned from my Grandmother years ago (with a secret microphone). This was necessary as she was reluctant to talk unless she had a drink or two. These recordings were taken in Austria in her flat which was only metres away from the Displaced Persons camp. The recordings are very precious to me.
I am using my Grandmother’s stories as a vehicle to explore and to try and understand the loss in my maternal line: the loss of family and place, culture and the trauma of displacement. And as always I endeavour through my artwork to honour the lives lived before me, to uphold and respect their incredible survival.
Some of my paintings are created out of a particular emotion that a story may give, and some are fantastical imaginings that have grown out of a previous piece, such as the ‘Pushkin’ painting.
The zoomorphic creatures keep developing in my work, their basis being two of my Grandmother’s childhood pets, Svyinka the pig and Bobik the dog. Many writers develop characters, and these characters then take over with a life of their own. The same is true of Svyinka and Bobik. They often lead me into paintings that have a deep significance and personal meaning which becomes clear only when the work is finished. I have come to trust their guidance.
The dog, pig and other creatures wander through landscapes and stories knowingly and unknowingly. They convey something from the maternal psyche, even through the seemingly mundane such as the baking of bread.
I continue to paint on found materials, mostly Masonite board. These have been sourced from demolitions, renovating neighbours, toss-outs and tip shops. The often damaged, scratched and pock marked surfaces, or “wounded wood” as I like to call it, sets the stage for my stories. Some pieces come from the very era my grandmother lived, adding a poignancy to my artwork. I am planning to use pieces from a demolished 1913 piano for some paintings.”
– Nina Keri
Friday 10 – Sunday 26 March 2017
10:00am – 4:00pm daily
Friday 10 March 2017 @ 6:00pm
Image Credits. Paintings by Nina Keri, Photographed by Illona Schneider.
Nina Keri. OST (2016). Oil on board and mirror, 70cm x 76cm.
Nina Keri. Displaced Persons (detail) (2016). Oil on board and mirror, 56cm x 86cm.