Mariupol: The Theatre of War.
aka - The Ukraine Paradox: A Superpower Superposition?


This image shows the amount of detail in a small section blown up to 6m x 2m
There are some written details about this piece underneath the image should you be interested.

.....For anyone who 'knows' my work, they will also know that I like to try and explain my thinking behind (some) of them. However, because the subject matter behind this piece is truly indescribable, almost incommunicable in normal civilized vocabulary I am having great difficulty. I have now lost count of the number of changes and updates I have made to this piece which I actually began working on a fortnight before the Russian invasion of Ukraine. My image began with just a huge dilapidated looking Russian fist, powered by some worn-out decaying machinery, at this point just threatening to crush a small Ukranian arm raised defiantly in resistance. Soon my image had to be expanded because even though an assault had been widely expected, the actual shock and the reality of such barbarism caused me to rethink whatever it was that I had started trying to depict. The initial bombing of Kyiv and Kharkiv showed immediately the level of ferocious barbarity that Putin was now prepared to unleash on his noncompliant neighbour. I made my first alterations by building up the “stack” of resistance: the incredible fortitude of the Ukrainian people. At the same time I began to widen the image because the conflict now had global implications. So the big question now posed was - 'how will the rest of the world react?'
.....From that point on, the news and information coming out of Ukraine just kept getting more and more harrowing and heartbreaking, yet nobody seemed able to come up with any ideas for how to stop it. I suspect most people are like me, knowing little or virtually nothing about the history and politics of that whole region of the planet (unless you've lived in Eastern Europe of course) so it is difficult to understand the underlying, hard-wired animosities that still exist. Of course all the countries in Europe have had disputes and wars with each other that go back centuries; the 20th century producing the two most devastating wars the world had ever witnessed. But the concensus since those wars seemed to be that we were entering an age where we thought we were enlightened enough to settle arguments by diplomacy or other such evolving means: a Third World War must never even be contemplated we are constantly told. And so another underlying question that any civilized person would also like an answer to is, 'how in the 21st century, have the world powers allowed this potentially apocalyptic situation to develop?' - even though we know that is an impossible question to answer!
.....However as my image widened, I did experiment with a range of thoughts around the first question, 'how will the rest of the world react?' but I soon realised that we already have the answer to that. The world is reacting: basically treading very carefully around the situation as if it were a disease and trying to ring-fence the contagion. It seems that regardless of all the prior warnings, the world still seemed stunned and reacted by watching and waiting...physical confrontation or even provision of certain resources having already being ruled out to avoid an escalation.
.....Soon after came the assault on Mariupol and what we witnessed in full view, in real time, in living (no dying) colour, was the beginning of the planned genocide of a Nation – and since then all we still seem able to do is watch as our whole world teeters at the edge of the precipice of survival. How appallingly appropriate the phrase “Theatre of War” is, when we talk about the regions where conflicts break out – well we've certainly got an actual theatre to focus our minds on now...Mariupol Theatre. And so a few days after, I realised that the only title this piece should have is - Mariupol: The Theatre of War. 16th March 2022
.....That attrocity certainly re-awakened in me the sense of just how vulnerable we all are to the maniac dictators who unfortunately still exist and with whom we have to share our planet. Already the 21st Century has had its fair share of horror in the places that sadly seem to have become 'the usual hotspots' around the world, which to be fair to most of us in democratic countries, those conflicts seem almost incomprehensible in nature, or too remote for us to fully understand and follow closely. And even though most of these ongoing conflicts are still very distressing, they have mostly become so convoluted that they seem historically almost irresolvable; as with the Afghan situation. But not with this: not with Ukraine. Ukraine has changed everything...forever!
.....In fact to use the theatre analogy, as I mentioned this image began 'centre stage' where we see Ukraine and Russia. And it depicts the tenacious spirit and unbelievable bravery of all Ukrainians who have been living with this existential threat for decades. They are truly the lion-hearted warrior-guardians on the front line of defense for all our western democracies: they need to be, they're living on a tectonic political faultline. But then as the image kept on widening over the past few weeks I have tried to portray how it is affecting the other 'players' and how they are relating to this theatre of war - on both sides. The big-name players have quite obviously been watching for some time, ready and willing to play some major role, yet even now they're still contemplating their options as to how they will play their chosen part. They have begun cautiously to react and respond to the shouting of an outraged audience but they are still rehersing only relatively small scenarios, reluctant, paralyzed almost by what the cataclysmic consequences could be, should they reveal their full repertoire prematurely.
.....On the Eastern side, China appears to be sitting the audition out for now, watching quietly and simply waiting to scoop a big part out of the wreckage. However “The West” knows we have to be ready for a sudden change in China's ambition for a star role, which adds to the urgency and need to accelerate its response. The western powers are a mixed bunch with plenty of talent but with no single coherent strategy for playing the starring role as yet. They know time is of the essence and they are beginning to 'wind up' for some sort of audition but they will need to be far more energized if they are going to give their best – and winning performance. What we see at the moment is a lot of grappling and improvisation with the situation that unfortunately is still coming over as a bit of a tangled presentation: what it needs is choreographing into a single unified aim. Even then it will still need a director to take on the great challenge of implementing that aim with a strategy that will not provoke the Putin psychopath to unleash weapons that could cause even worse atrocities.
.....Having said that, it would be hard to imagine anything worse, because already what we see and hear in the media is completely unimaginable for outsiders by any civilized standards. So, this image is not trying to depict the utter devastation and scorched earth policy that is now raining down on Ukraine...even the most graphic TV images (and there are more than enough) can evoke only 1% of the horror of actually being there. I think the image has evolved over the last few weeks into my attempt to portray this utterly hellish cataclysm. How has the Dictator - “Putin the Insane” or “Butcher of Moscow”, whatever his new title - with his diabolical and inhuman war machine, powered by the crumbling remnants of the Russian Soviet State been able to create this inferno; here in the centre of Europe in the third decade of the 21st century? Only now do we fully realize how much Ukraine must have suffered from the decades of sustained intimidation by Russia - but Putin has sunk to even greater depths of depravity: HE, now seems intent on its total annihilation...14th April 2022 Who knows the image may evolve further. Please check back to see any changes!

.....Today 17th May 2022 - Since my last alterations and updates to this image, Mariupol has finally surrendered its valiant struggle. Now it will go down in history as another example of the apotheosis of the human spirit, personified by its endeavour to overcome the darkest of inhuman forces and acts of atrocity. As such, I will be not be making any more updates to this image but I hope it manages to portray our battle for the survival of freedom and decency – which will probably never end - but neither will it ever be snuffed out!

.....Today 26th July 2022 - Okay, I knew this would happen! All my work is a progression of both my thinking and my experience and sometimes a piece nags me to revisit it with an update... and this piece of work hasn't finished with me yet. So, since 17th May – there's more to say. I have indeed had more thoughts about this piece; not about the image but about changing its title and I suppose this new title is because I'm trying to understand something – probably the same or similar thoughts to those going through everyone's mind – how will this crisis eventually end? And at this point it is worth mentioning the many innocent people of Russia – who also want an answer, from the other side of this conflict. The truth is obvious of course; no one knows or can predict an outcome as there are too many variables. And so I've changed my perspective and I'm trying to view it afresh from a more objective or global aspect (in my very limited, non-scientific way) which led me to reflect this in its new title -

The Ukraine Paradox: A Superpower Superposition?

.....And the reason for the question in the title is because I am simply asking whether there is an alternative, or whether this is the way things must be; which is an unthinkable and depressing state of actuality and realisation – but just maybe, this is where we've been since the Cold War... since the Second World War... since the First World war... since the beginning of... forever! Because if we analyse the current impasse, it seems there can be no answer or resolution in sight until we activate the forces allowing the scenario to run its course and see the outcome in real time. Until then it can only remain in the same paradox as Shrödinger's Cat. So in one sense the “Superposition” Ukraine is in, this stasis, this horrendous atrocity we are witnessing, will just continue as a never ending war. Hopefully, as with all of “mankind's flare-ups” around the planet, it will degrade to a more manageable conflict with some cobbled-together ceasefire(s) eventually as leaderships change. But if this cannot be arranged or engineered by the sober realisation and understanding of history on both sides, then there is only one alternative to this superpostion: it is to open the box and take a look inside. By thus causing the “Wave function Collapse”... we would be able to take a look at how “Shrödinger's Cat” is actually doing... and I'm not sure anyone truly wants to know the answer to that!

It looks like this will have to be continued...

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