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In the Frame for March 2011: Arthur Kenneth Ward’s ‘The Struggle’

A month or so ago we featured a reflection written by one of our volunteers about her work here at the Archives & Museum. Now another of our volunteers has put pen to paper, this time to write one in our regular In the Frame series of posts. He writes:

‘To my mind The Struggle (1963) by Arthur Kenneth Ward actually shows several struggles. It is a watercolour of a man walking up a path of a prison by the edge of a cliff, with a distant city ahead of him. The most obvious struggle portrayed in the painting is of the man himself. He is wearing what looks to me to be a prisoner’s uniform. A large shard of glass is protruding from his back. To the viewer, it looks as though the man has broken a window in order to escape his prison, but has been impaled by a shard falling from the top left of picture. To me the shard represents how difficult his escape is going to be. Will he ever be able to be truly free? However, the artist himself, in writing of this painting, related it his own struggle after leaving prison to adjust to life in the outside world, with the only available path seeming to lead back to prison.

‘I see other struggles in the painting. The sun struggles to shine through the fog. This creates the impression of a dark and lonely place, and of a barrier between the prison and the city in the distance. The faded colours of the distant city make it seem as though it is so far away that the man may never be able to reach it. Indeed, the artist wrote that the bright colours of the prison in the foreground stand for familiarity and the friendships that he had in prison. I myself interpret these colours as the stark realism of life, and the faded background colours as things that cannot be (in this case, freedom). The final struggle depicted in the painting is of the crumbling building itself. Its doomed struggle against time puts it in as much need of regeneration as the prisoner is in need of rehabilitation.’