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Three different jigsaw puzzles rearranged on 3 layers of Plexiglas superimposed
128 x 181 x 9cm
collection: Private Collection

Hiroshima Shadows

  • I love building puzzles. From a time point of view I can't afford to buy puzzles any more, as any puzzle I start I want to finish on the same day. I will work through the night to finish one if I have to. Throughout my life I have completed many jigsaw puzzles. The technique I used even in childhood was like drawing. By memorising the size of the missing pieces and their corresponding nodules, I trained myself to read them very carefully as form. Only when I could identify the correct piece would I allow myself to pick it up and insert it, and that rule I have kept to ever since. All my work has to do with minutely detailed surfaces and interlocking forms, so I get a kick out of working with jigsaw puzzles because they function according to similar principles.


    HIROSHIMA SHADOWS is the second work I have created based on a puzzle of the New York skyline specific to the World Trade Centre's twin towers and its financial district. I bought the puzzles long before 11 September 2001, when the whole of the Trade Centre complex was destroyed. In both works I shattered and reconfigured aspects of the original commercial puzzles. In HIROSHIMA SHADOWS I have superimposed fragments of two other puzzles over a completed puzzle of the New York skyline. I then commissioned an airbrush artist to overpaint and thereby remove the image of the World Trade Centre's twin towers, leaving only a faint shadow of where they once stood. The outlines are purposely faint, because the memories of the event are now distant.


    I explained the allusion in the title and the idea it conveys in the interview, but in short they originated with the German artist Joseph Beuys (1921--1986). An installation of his had been moved away from a wall to allow the room to be repainted. Where the work had stood, black marks were left on the wall. He called them 'Hiroshima shadows'. The explosions in Hiroshima and Nagasaki also seem to be a very distant memory for Americans at this stage. People are still afraid to mention the occasion when America dropped nuclear bombs on two Japanese cities, especially in the context of the Iraq war. The irony remains that America is the only country in history that has used weapons of mass destruction on mostly civilian populations, killing more than 100 000 defenceless men, women and children.


    (transcript from an interview conducted with the artist by W Siebrits, June 2007)

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