Guernsey, Channel Islands
Chamber of Commerce, Guernsey
Art for Guernsey and Chamber of Commerce boosted relations between Guernsey and the Czech Republic with an exhibition and a specially commissioned artwork.
Oil on linen with detail of aluminium metal leaf
Sally Ede-Golightly, 2020
As I researched Jaroslav Novak, I found his story stirring and my reaction to it visceral. Perhaps it is shocking simply because it is an account well documented, or maybe because he was married just two weeks before he died. However, what haunts me most are his last words, spoken with a remarkably calm dialogue, so accepting of his fate. I have offset Novak, calm and serene, against the chaos likely racing through his mind as his fellow pilots radioed him, ‘Goodbye Yardeskie and good luck,’ and as he replied, ‘Goodbye boys, give my best wishes…’
While Novak’s Spitfire was shot down in the waters of Guernsey, I felt it important to also contemplate other elements of his life beyond this final mission. The painting’s background presents both an allegory of family life, a reference to a life unlived, and the chaos that reigns with the horrors of war. It draws inspiration from two Czech artists: František Kupka (1871-1957), in particular his 1910 painting ‘Family Portrait’, and Emil Filla (1882-1953). Filla was active between the two World Wars and, after surviving two concentration camps, made an etching entitled ‘Nazism II’. I have used Filla’s winged monster of this etching to overshadow the island of Guernsey as 22 remaining Spitfires fly away from their mission, with one spitfire lost.
The painting is rendered on coarse, heavy-weave linen reflecting wartime materials. The spitfires are gilded with an aluminium-based metal leaf, mirroring the toy-like fragility of their structures when up against the flak. The gilded stork is the emblem for Novak’s 312 Czech Squadron.
“I was so grateful for the opportunity to be part of this Cultural Diplomacy project with Art for Guernsey and the Czech Embassy. I am continually aware of Novak’s generosity in volunteering for the RAF’s Czech Squadrons and the enormity of his sacrifice. This commission made me conscious that this is one of many stories, many untold and many undocumented. The opportunity to have this painting on display in the Czech Republic was humbling and exciting, as it allowed Novak’s extraordinary story to go full circle.”
RAF pilot Jaroslav ‘Yardeskie’ Novak
In association with:
ENRICHING OUR ISLAND
We have been working in the Bailiwick since 2016, bringing art exhibitions, events and creative activities of the highest standards of delivery and engagement to the community, from early education to care homes and everyone in between. We have reached not just our own community but far beyond our shores too. We always strive to inspire our community, innovate in our delivery, reach significant audiences and support future generations, combining creativity with impact.