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Disasters of War

An exhibition by Noel Hodnett

November 20, 2014 - December 24, 2014

An interactive installation of paintings, video and sculpture with lasers, "landmines", a "drone" and Makonde tribal masks. Some of the works on show reference similar themes explored by Goya, Delacroix and Caravaggio.

Due to the graphic content of some of the images on show this exhibition is unsuitable for children and sensitive viewers.


Viewers in the gallery

Viewers in the gallery


Viewers in the gallery



Entrance to Exhibition

Wall Text

This installation references current events with similar themes depicted by Old Masters such as Goya, Delacroix and Caravaggio.

The artist, as witness to the times, has a duty to remind people that human savagery has no bounds and that civilized society has a social responsibility to seek better ways of resolving disputes.

Man’s brutality towards his fellow man has been well documented in art throughout the ages, but with the advent of social media and the pervasive use of hand-held video cameras and smart phones, the horrors of war are now brought to our attention in real time. Unspeakable acts of violence have proliferated in the media to such an extent that we have become anaesthetized and no longer shocked by what we see or hear. We simply change the channel and allow ourselves to be transported to another reality at the touch of a button.  Unfortunately for those living the nightmare changing the channel is not an option.

This exhibition does not take sides nor does it intend to pass judgment on the reasons people act the way they do. It does however question the methods employed by the perpetrators of savagery to garner the attention they think their cause deserves, and draws attention to the collateral damage caused by such actions. The exhibition also questions the roll of world leadership involvement in the affairs of others to suit their own agendas...from individuals to entire nations.

In the Preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it states:

“Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people.”




Wall text with "Desaparecido" © 2014


"Desaparecido", painted in 2002, remembers those who “disappeared” under military dictatorships and oppressive regimes in numerous countries in South America and other parts of the world. This work forms part of a suite of 4 paintings that was exhibited at Britannia Community Centre Library in May 2002. This painting has not been exhibited since that time. The rest of the suite of paintings are in the Simon Fraser University collection in Vancouver, BC



Gallery view with "War Horse", "Cardboard Woman" and "Topless Jihad" © 2014


Based on the masterpiece “Liberty Leading the People” painted by Eugene Delacroix in 1830, "Topless Jihad" references recent protests in Paris by the women’s rights group Femen regarding freedom of speech and association.

http://www.tudonna.it/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/femen1.jpg     http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-8TZFRNJER-k/UeXTvGsY8oI/AAAAAAAAAEw/DjTcJxuTjAw/s758/1001618_147951442057114_807435010_n.jpg 

According to the Washington-based magazine “The Atlantic”, when the 19 year old Tunisian, Amina Sboui, posted topless photos of herself with the words, “My Body Belongs to ME and Is Not the Source of Anyone’s Honour” written across her chest in Arabic, a Tunisian Muslim official called for her to be "...stoned to death". Her family kidnapped her, beat her, and held her in captivity for three weeks, during which time they drugged her, subjected her to an amateur virginity test, forced her to read the Quran and took her on involuntary visits to Imams. Amina's aunt posted a video online in which she called her niece "mentally ill," "unbalanced," and "psychopathic" for her "shameful act," which had injured her father's "pride as a man." Femen staged protests outside a Paris mosque in support of Amina who later denounced the group because she apparently felt their actions in Paris were disrespectful to the Muslim world. 

Condemned by some as “Islamophobic”, “racist”, “colonial feminists”, Femen has, whether one agrees with them or not, chartered a new direction for public debate about women’s rights.





   Gallery view with "Jihad Johnny's Dilemma" (left), "Drone", "Execution in the Desert" (centre), "Woman with Poppies" and "War Horse" © 2014


"Execution in the Desert"

Based on Goya’s “The 3rd of May 1808” depicting Napoleon’s soldiers executing Spanish nationalists, this painting references the massacre of defenceless “infidels” and clerics by Islamic State operatives.


 http://thenypost.files.wordpress.com/2014/08/saaprisonerstabqa.jpg  http://www.nairaland.com/attachments/1612097_isis09_jpeg0580775a6a6a80c1ce72bba6c36b0132

According to the New York Post and a number of independent reports, hundreds of captives were marched into the desert and summarily executed by IS militants. In this painting, as in Goya’s original, the central figure faces his executioners...unlike the usual IS practice of shooting bound and defenceless victims in the back of the head.

The painting further references the wholesale destruction of religious and cultural icons, in particular, the venerated Prophet Younis (Jonah) Mosque built in the 8thC.  IS operatives also demolished numerous cultural sites including the Shrine of Prophet Shayth (Seth), torched 11 churches and monasteries out of 35 scattered across the city of Mosul and went on to destroy statues of poets, literary and historical figures much cherished by the inhabitants of Mosul.

                     Before        After




 "Woman with Poppies"

The painting pays homage to those who have suffered collateral damage in war. In particular, the multitude of Afghani women and children who have become opium addicts, prostitutes and beggars due to a host of circumstances beyond their control.

The red poppy, as a symbol of remembrance for fallen soldiers, should also be a symbol for remembering all victims of war...not just the combatants. There are 100 hand-cut red felt poppies in this work commemorating those affected since WW1. The white poppy, as a symbol of peace, should serve to remind us to strive for a better understanding of mankind’s rights to freedom of speech and association and above all, peace. The 50 white poppies (half the number of red poppies) included in this work allude to world leadership’s apparent preference of war over peace and the lucrative aspect of  supplying military weapons to friend and foe alike.

According to Wikipedia, Opium production in Afghanistan has been on the rise since U.S. occupation started in 2001. Based on United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) data, there has been more opium poppy cultivation in each of the past growing seasons than in any one year during Taliban rule. More land is now used for poppy cultivation in Afghanistan than for coca cultivation in Latin America.  At well over a million drug addicts in a population of 35 million, addiction in Afghanistan is now proportionately the highest in the world.



"Johnny Jihad's Dilemma"

This work references what goes through someone's mind before committing some heinous act of barbarity.





 "That's My Boy!" © 2014

Reminiscent of the subject of Caravaggio’s “David Holding the Head of Goliath” painted in 1610, this painting portrays the seven year old son of Australian fugitive, Khaled Sharrouf, holding a severed head...much the same way a child would proudly display a fish he had just caught.


These pictures taken of Mr. Sharrouf and his son in Raqqa were posted on social media with the caption “That’s my Boy!”





Gallery view with "Gaza" (foreground), "I Dream of Africa" (background) and "Decapitation" (right) © 2014


"Gaza" © 2014

This work speaks directly to the indiscriminate horror, both physically and mentally, inflicted on children in times of conflict.  Often used as human shields, these children of war, like many in the Middle East, Africa and other conflict zones around the world, are victims of fanatical religious beliefs, lack of education and indoctrination and therefore have seriously reduced prospects of ever living an ethical life of their own.




Gallery view with "Little Boy's Toy", Video and "Calculating the Cost of War" © 2014

"Little Boy's Toy" makes reference to the supply of arms and equipment to militants by western powers, whether by default, capture or intent. War is big business. Video showing a quote by George Orwell: "Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give the appearance of solidity to pure wind" as the introduction to the Wikileaks film "Collateral Murder".



"Calculating the Cost of War"

 Special thanks to Canadian Poet, Tom McGauley, for the loan of this work for this exhibition.

Based on a rusted manual calculator that was found in Alicedale, South Africa, in 2005, this work examines the greed that stokes the flames of war.


The calculator was transformed from rusted junk to art piece by simply adding a twig and mounting it on a piece of oak. The work forms part of the Van Eyssen collection in South Africa.




Gallery view with "Devouring the Children" and "Torso" by Joshua Nell © 2014




This painting is informed by “Saturn Devouring His Son” painted by Goya between 1819 and 1823. Known as one of the “Black Paintings” it shows Saturn, the Roman mythological god, who, fearing that his children would one day overthrow him, ate each one of them upon their births.


The painting references the horrific slaughter of villagers including innocent children by Islamic fundamentalists in Syria and Iraq.

Similar atrocities and crimes against humanity have been carried out by Boko Haram and Al Shabab in Nigeria and Somalia.





"I Dream of Africa" © 2014

This installation of five Makonde tribal dance masks draws attention to the abduction and killing of school children by Boko Haram in West Africa. It also pays homage to the ongoing destruction of cultural heritage by religious fundamentalists around the world. Displayed in much the same way as decapitated heads are displayed in Islamic State strongholds such as Raqqa and Mosul, and indeed earlier conflicts such as those depicted in Goya's "The Disasters of War" series of etchings, these dance masks take on a deeper significance.




Comments from the Visitors' Book:




Thank you for not choosing to pacify us with something pretty.

Made you look, made you think. Thank you!


Very thought provoking series.


Powerful Pieces!!


A tour de force!


Powerful and important work!


Thank you for making me "think".


Thank you thank you thank you --- it needs to be told!


Powerful, intense, engaged.


Terrifying but good.


Our sad history. Thank you.



hfa  contemporary

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Viewing:  By appointment.

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