The war against invisible virus enemy continues as art industry proves to transcend all conflicts

Headshot of Kellie Balaam
Kellie BalaamAlbany Advertiser
A Conspiracy of Covids by Liane Shavian.
Camera IconA Conspiracy of Covids by Liane Shavian. Credit: Liane Shavian

The arts industry has taken a massive hit this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But, to make an extreme comparison, the industry was locked in a much bigger battle during World War II.

The war against the invisible enemy of COVID-19 has claimed a fraction of the lives, but the death toll is not the focus of the comparison.

Before the coronavirus crisis, WWII was arguably the last time culture and arts organisations ground to such a global halt.

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During the war, many artists found themselves trying to survive in a bleak and dangerous world controlled by enemy forces, with their works evidence of their passion.

This week, we spoke to one of them — Albany artist Maria Cool.

Cool, who some people might know for her vibrant and distinctive paintings, grew up in the nazi-occupied Netherlands when the world was ravaged by war.

She used art as a way to escape those tragic times and spent much of her childhood creating drawings for her neighbours to help pay her family’s rent.

Due to the war and poverty she was unable to study art in the Netherlands but later had the opportunity when she migrated to WA in 1955.

Albany artist Maria Cool at home.
Camera IconAlbany artist Maria Cool at home. Credit: Laurie Benson/Albany Advertiser, Laurie Benson

Nazi Germany was a prime example of a fascist regime which tried to suppress and censor the arts and cultural industries.

In Paris in 1941, artists staged an exhibition of semi-abstract and brightly coloured works which was considered a form of resistance to the nazis.

Not only did artists continue to create in a state of all-out war, that urge to create was powerful enough to frustrate a regime fixated on censorship.

Art has a long history of surviving and even thriving through adversity, and once again, it seems to be fighting back from a crisis.

When the pandemic reached WA earlier this year, Albany artist Liane Shavian put her emotions to canvas as the uncertainty of the situation filled her with creative energy.

Camera IconLockdown Credit: Liane Shavian/Liane Shavian

As a member of a vulnerable age group, she followed the strict self-isolation guidelines rolled out in March.

Shavian launched her new exhibition Going Viral: Art in the Time of Corona in June.

“I ordered in heaps of blank canvases and vibrant acrylic paint and energetically set out to make sense of the unprecedented historical hysteria-inducing pandemic raging its way throughout the planet,” she told the Advertiser.

“The works evoke our collective mindset during this scary time — fear and uncertainty, high anxiety, tentative hope, and heightened awareness of the pressing needs of the tribal connectivity that is in our human DNA.”

As the COVID-19 battle ebbs and flows around the world, the arts will continue to provide people with a way to document history and a precious outlet for emotional expression.

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