How did this idea come about?

May 2009 – My mind is suddenly filled with what seems like a scene from a film. The sense of immediacy is so strong that for a moment it appears that time is standing still. I can see myself, sitting at a desk in a room I do not recognise, the walls covered in white tiles. I have a paint brush in my hand and watch myself start to paint. Absurdly, I am wearing protective gloves. Red and black shapes spread over the paper, seemingly on their own. Movement. A voice says it’s all a question of "Love and death" and that it is the blood of someone with AIDS that is being used to paint this picture ...

The images are of such vehemence that I am left in no doubt that these impressions will become reality. It was equally clear that any encounter between an artist and someone with AIDS will possess a special symbolic force. Finally, a third important person enters the stage of my mind: an art lover who buys this picture at an auction and thus creates the opportunity to donate the proceeds from this picture to a charitable organisation that works in the AIDS area. The circle closes ...

Why blood?

The use of blood as a means of artistic expression and image content, has a long tradition in cultural history. A large number of artists who have worked with and depicted blood to make their statement, and interpreted and questioned social issues. I would like to mention the book "Blood – Art, Power, Politics and Pathology" by J. M. Bradburne (Ed.) that was published at the end of 2002, in conjunction with the eponymous exhibition at the 'Museum für Angewandte Kunst' and 'The Schirnkunsthalle Frankfurt', which expresses vividly why blood is of such elementary force and importance.

In the context of the project I am presenting, blood plays a unique part as the source of life and simultaneously as the carrier of the disease trigger. The provoking aspect helps the project and issue to be perceived in the public mind.

About safety

As soon as the blood on the picture has dried, virologists consider an actual risk of infection not to be relevant. However, due to legal clauses in the indivicual countries it will have the cumulative effect that the blood sample has to be sterilised before the picture is painted.

Contents and objectives

Apart from the goal of raising money for a good cause, this project wants to attract attention and create awareness on how to interact with AIDS properly. Safety and security occupy a central role. The danger that is contained in the infected blood during the process of painting the picture, remains present and apparent for the observer even after the elimination of risk in the displayed painting, and reminds us to be cautious. The observer experiences a dichotomy of emotion, feels attracted by the aesthetic expression of the painting, yet simultaneously reserved, due to the knowledge of the illness. It is precisely this ambivalent conflict that determines society’s interaction with AIDS.

Why the title: "LOVE and DEATH?"

It certainly would have been easier not to use the word DEATH. It would have been less confrontational and less sober. And especially in association with AIDS and the new perspectives of treatment possibilities, it might be considered unsuitable or wrong to make it a subject of this discussion.

I have myself stared into the face of death myself and painfully experienced what it means to lose a dear and beloved person. I have tremendous respect for death and I am firmly convinced that we can only live, if we recognise and appreciate the true meaning that death holds for our lives.

Again, I would explicitly like to point out that a question mark "?" has been deliberately placed in the title of this project, to invoke a discussion and to question critically: who is dying of AIDS today and in which countries? How do we deal with the expanding rift between the so-called 'developved' and 'undeveloped' countries (e.g. Africa)? Can one afford, not to discuss death anymore, as it appears to loose its daunting effect because of the new therapies? Does AIDS no longer appear to be inevitably life threatening? How does one do justice to the worldwide danger and the hope of healing and of not experiencing the outbreak of AIDS at the same time?

Furthermore, the title also contains a second word: the LOVE that helps us to fight for life, that draws us to life, that leads us to deep fulfilment and truth in our encounters with other people. And although, we know of its existence, sing about it in thousands of songs, we appear to keep losing LOVE until we recognise again that we are constantly surrounded by it.

It is very interesting to observe that during discussions about this project, 90% talk about DEATH and hardly any importance is attached to LOVE. But this in itself provides cause for reflection.

What will the painting look like?

You can view first layouts of this project in the section "Work of art". Next to a comprehensive visual concept, each painting will be inspired by its country-specific cultural form and will therefore be unique. I am quite excited to see where this journey will go.

If you would like to receive further information on the course of this project, you can subscribe to my free newsletter or follow this project on Twitter: @loveanddeath.