Painting of a Ukrainian boy carrying a bird in a cage with murdered women behind.

The Pity of War. For silent and stolen lives .

In Zoe Cameron Blog by Zoe Cameron

Since Russia attacked and invaded Ukraine I have been sickened. Thanks to the brave journalists , photographers and Ukrainian people, we have all born witness in some small part to the pitiless suffering day after day inflicted on this nation by a tyrant and his armed forces. Some of the stories have remained in my thoughts and over the recent months I made a series of paintings. In this post I share with you a few poor photographs of the studio and the six unframed works along with selected text.

Painting in an artists studio of a Ukrainian boy carrying a bird in a cage with murdered women behind.
Boy with a caged bird, Ukraine. Oil on board. 2023.

I think of the children, the elderly, the animals, the women who’s brothers, sons and husbands are fighting for their lives and futures. The French Christian Mystic and philosopher Simone Weil said “Human beings are so made that the ones who do the crushing feel nothing; it is the person crushed who feels what is happening” .

Studio photo of paintings about the Ukraine war, showing a child in the bath with her dog and a drone coming.
Studio photo of paintings about the Ukrainian war. In the foreground ‘The girl in the bath’.Oil on board.2023

Cruelty can be delivered in many ways, depending on the nature and objectives of the aggressor. Ukraine was invaded amongst other reasons, to steal its land by force . Simone Weil went on to say, “Force turns a human into a thing, notably killing outright, but in a way even more shocking, it managed the paradoxical horror of turning a human being into a thing while he is still alive . It left victims on the ground like a half crushed worm , like a butterfly pinned alive into an album, mutilated”.

Painting about the Ukraine war, showing a lion in a child's bed. The child has writing on her back in case the parents die. Homage to Maria Prymachenko's paintings
Alisa .24.2.22. A child of war, Ukraine. Oil on board. 2023. The lion references the work of Ukrainian artist Maria Prymachenko.

A terrible and yet so accurate visual description of the use of force. Its also why Weil urged society to ignore at our peril – The eternal obligation placed on us as human beings in this life , is in a shared community of mutual obligations, both political and ethical. And that one must do what one can to meet the obligation that suffering imposed.

Artists studio showing a painting about Ukraine , of a dead figure and a loyal dog.
Dead figure with waiting dog, Ukraine. Oil on board. 2023.

Russian writer Dostoevsky says the very same – ” a human being living on the surface of the earth has no right to turn away and ignore what is happening on earth, and there are higher moral imperatives for this. He goes on in Crime and Punishment to say these thought provoking words by explaining in agonising detail the toll of murder on the murderer – that when someone takes a life, they kill part of themselves –

Unframed painting showing a bombed dairy farm in Ukraine , with dead cows and a weeping woman.
The Dairy Farm, Ukraine. Oil on board. 2023.

Ironically another Russian Author Leo Tolstoy in his novel War and Peace wrote “The misery of nations is caused not by particular persons, but by the particular order of Society under which the people are so bound up together that they find themselves all in the power of a few men, or more often in the power of one single man: a man so perverted by his unnatural position as arbiter of the fate and lives of millions, that he is always in an unhealthy state, and always suffers more or less from a mania of self-aggrandisement.”

Artists studio photograph showing a painting about the Ukraine war , in which people are being forced to make treacherous journeys to save themselves .
The Exodus, Ukraine. Oil on board .2023.

History lays bare the fate of the innocents who suffer and die when such a mania is left to run its perverted course. I finish with the reminder that no one wins in war, with the poignant and profound words written by Officer and Poet, Lieutenant Wilfred Owen from his poem Strange Meeting , before he died at the tender age of twenty-five, in which confronts the truth and reality experienced by those in war. In his poem he describes an imaginary meeting in hell between two soldiers after death , in the last few lines the terrible truth is revealed, the soldier who has greeted him like a friend and raised his hand in a gesture of blessing, goes on to tell him;

Strange Meeting

“I am the enemy you killed, my friend. 

I knew you in this dark: for so you frowned 

Yesterday through me as you jabbed and killed. 

I parried; but my hands were loath and cold. 

Let us sleep now. . . .”

By Wilfred Owen.