On March 20th I was expecting to begin hanging my ‘magical realism’ screen prints in the MA Fine Art show. To accompany the prints I had spent ages preparing and completing an unusual, and sometimes strange, autobiography. I had really enjoyed this and I had included short chapters about the people who’d played a significant role in shaping my identity and extending my education. I had also included a few chapters that featured poems or ideological comments. Amongst it all was something that has, for a long time, fascinated me. It’s the idea of ‘Hiroshima roses.’
I was born in 1949 when the world was still living under the long shadow cast by the bombing of Hiroshima. It was a time when many people – including my parents – had a sense of the ominous – of the possibility of total annihilation. The 1950s saw the strengthening of anti-war sentiment and the beginnings of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. I would see the media coverage of the famous Aldermaston marches; we were also regularly reminded of the creation of the atom bomb. And we saw, again and again, images of the detonation of the megaton hydrogen bomb; the flash and the mushroom cloud; white-yellow then orange and grey – against a clear silver-blue sky…
As the years went by those images of the exploding nuclear bomb became almost commonplace and part of a spectacular iconography. It seems to me that a strange beauty had found itself attached to horror. So, when I saw those images I thought I was now watching something I called ‘Hiroshima roses.’
I started to look at the world about me in those terms – and every once in a while, when I found them, I took photographs of my ‘Hiroshima roses.’ The photograph above is just one example; it’s the kind of image that reminds me of the fragility of beauty and, ultimately, of everything that we have created.
Post script: My colleague, P.V., responded to this post with the following observation:
‘We still live in the shadows of total annihilation, and with the strangely beautiful and haunting image of the nuclear explosion to daunt us. But we became used to it, didn’t we? And it no longer seems to threaten us, as it did – although the threat remains the same. Strange are the ways of human nature!’