2014Ray Balkwill: An Artists View
The Drecki Lecture for 2014 was given by distinguished Academician Ray Balkwill on November 26 at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum
2013True Art Stories
In 2013 we experienced the fascinating True Art Stories as told by award winning artist and author Laurence Anholt:
revealing fascinating insights into the lives of the famous artists who have become household names for us all
2012Alan Cotton: A Painter's Journey to Everest
The Academy's President Emeritus took us on a fascinating journey through much of his own life as
an artist, each painting helping the audience to see 'through his eyes'
2011Yazmina Reza's ART
The 2011 Lecture took the form of a performance reading of Yasmina Reza's hilariously funny, award-winning comedy play, 'ART',
performed by the Cornish artists, Anthony Frost, Bob Devereux and Phil Bowen
The South West Academy owes a great debt of gratitude to Zbigniew Drecki,
the painter and philanthropist, and his wife Jo Drecki. The Drecki Memorial
Lecture was established to honour his memory. The following text is a personal
recollection of Zbigniew Drecki by David Bazell.
If Auschwitz prisoner No. 214, in pursuing an interest and flair for painting
after the war, had daubed away in blacks and greys, perhaps with an occasional
dash of red, it might have been perfectly understandable.
But Zbigniew Drecki did no such thing. His canvasses emerged with colours
that were largely to become the way one saw him - an eternal spring season
despite the wartime hell he had had to endure. His experiences in the camps
had been such that almost as a medical necessity he had to live away from
Britain in the wintertime, and eventually it drove him to build a home in
Florida. But he never laid aside his art and with his wife Jo continued to
share his time with his home in Exmouth where he lived for many years and
at one time ran a painting school. He had met Jo at the Ockenden Venture,
set up after the war for the care and education of refugee children from
Displaced Persons Camps in German, when Jo was an English Teacher.
Painting by Zbigniew Drecki
Zbigniew Drecki almost always had a ready smile, and a deep seated sense of
humour often came to the fore during our many conversations. He was always
willing to speak about the Death Camp - even including small acts of kindness
that showed up against the backdrop of generally overwhelming inhumanity -
and more than once referred, with a hint of that impish smile that often
crossed his face, to the times he cheated the ovens, assisted on one occasion
- he had been the very next in line to be shot against the wall next to the
infamous Block 10 - by an unexpected visited to the camp by Hitler which
interrupted that particular programme and consequently saved his life.
Invariably, however, he would return to the passion in life which consumed
him as much as his oils: the creation of a world order for peace and
stability. Almost his final words to me, as he lay dying in his Exmouth
home, Zbigniew was to say: 'Life is wonderful; it is only people who spoil
it.' He referred to conflicts around the globe and the consequent inhumanities
that sometimes matched the worst excesses of the Third Reich about which he
knew only too well as a survivor of the first transport to Auschwitz in
June, 1941, and who after being transferred for a spell at Buchenwald,
escaped on a night train taking him to Dachau.
He asked me to write of his ideas for future conduct worldwide to the
Secretary General of the United Nations. Listening to him trying to recount
what he had failed to do in his life made me feel I had at least to do
this much for him; he felt strongly that his survival placed on him a duty
to achieve something for all those who perished. Well, Kofi Annan has Zbigniew's
views. And the vision of this remarkable man from Warsaw is set down and
available in the latter part of his moving book, Freedom and Justice. He
wrote letters to anyone influential, from world leaders to ordinary newspaper
reporters - to anyone he thought might listen - to try to make a lasting
contribution on the victims' behalf. He tried.
Formidable in stature and presence, Zbigniew Drecki, from Warsaw, was a gentle
and quiet-spoken man. He very often painted away furiously; at one time, a room
of his home in Albion Hill was stacked to the ceiling with his work. Scores
upon scores of paintings, mostly colourful and pacific, emerged. He seemed to
get a real buzz from them, showing them, holding them up. 'What do you think?'.
Who knows, perhaps he received a kind of energy from them, even providing
a light for his darkness.
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