Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Monday, February 3, 2014

Something from Ghent

Contributed by Tony Langley

Possibly, you think in terms of Ghent in medieval terms — the affluent wool-producing port and capital of Flanders. And because of this heritage, that it's a tourist Mecca today.

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But contemporary Ghent is a city known for its many colorful murals. Throughout the streets in the city's center one can turn a corner and unexpectedly be confronted with an otherwise blank wall painted in a riot of color and shapes. These are executed with a high degree of skill, though usually with very modern themes more reminiscent of 1960s underground press art, punk art, various Third World art styles, or derivatives of sword and fantasy illustrations. A class apart are the realistic animal murals made by the world renowned muralist from Ghent itself named Roa. His work graces many walls in New York, San Francisco, Paris, London, Warsaw, and other places around the globe.

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This mural is something of a departure from the usual themes, but it fits in the overall urban look of the city very well. Obviously commemorating the centennial of the Great War, it depicts an Italian, British, French and a very gaunt-eyed Belgian soldier in 1914 uniforms. The lower part of the mural shows a scene in a Belgian village somewhere along the Ijser front, most probably Dixmuide where fierce fighting took place in the autumn of 1914. 

The female figure on the bottom right is something of a mismatch on the wall, since it apparently shows the goddess Fortuna, bringer of fortune and wealth and plenty. In the incarnation we see here, she is dispensing the bounty of the sea which is perhaps a connotation referring to the Ghent harbor.

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