Today I walked again to a place called “Graubrunnen” (grey fountain). It is a patch of some 50 acres of forest. There are a number of small creeks which fall dry in summer unless there is rain. But nevertheless it is moist there. For me this place is a special, sinister place. During the Nazi-regime in these woods there were some barracks for people from Russia who were forced to work in factories at Maulbronn and the neighbourhood.
There is a memorial stone directly at the small street which reminds of something. But what, I ask myself each time when I pass by. A Lev Kopelev quote is carved in a splitted sandstone. It is very general speaking of international understanding and how difficult it is to establish and that it is a task for all generations.
When I read it I always think it sounds like a lie.
The reason is that I live long enough here that I know that only a couple of meters away there once were tombstones of 28 forced labourers. There were the names and the dates of birth and death. If I do not remember wrong the age of the buried people was between 14 and 22 years.
The dates of death were all very close, all of them died within a couple of days just before the Moroccan troops moved in at the end of the war in May 1945. The place is outside the village, somehow in the middle of nowhere directly adjacent to a narrow road. In a way one can think the bodies have been buried in a ditch.
The tombstones were removed and instead there is a memorial at the old cemetery near the Abbey Maulbronn. The text speaks of 20 Russian, Polish and Belgian forced labourers who died in last days of the war at hospital and in combat. The names and dates of birth and dead are listed. The majority were young people around 20 years old and one baby. The memorial stone outside the town with the Lev Kopelev quote is listed as a Russian war grave memorial.
From all what I know I cannot make a connection between that what I have heard and seen and this memorial. Somehow it seems to obscure history rather than allowing memory.
I had scouted the place in the woods already a week ago when there was no water. Now there was water, a busy flowing and murmuring meander, a small version of the eternal and mighty forces of nature.
The light was very dim under grey sky and the dense canopy of beech and oaks. These are the conditions for glowing green moss and growing mushrooms.
I had covered the inner binding of the sketchbook with a stripe of paper to avoid that colours would damage previous sketches. I learned that a narrower strip would be better to keep the sheets flat.
In the beginning I use the big brush for abstract colour fields and then started to add more details with smaller bristle brushes. I repaired a spot on the left page because the pages adhered together when I got home after the first session a week ago. When I separated the pages at home some of the surface was lifted off the left page. This can happen when the paper is very wet and also a lot of gouache was used.
There was a price to pay to do this study: flies! I should have know that before. The following photographs document the making of this gouache sketch.
Autum is already near, not only the growing mushrooms indicate that, there is this smell in the air and the many cobbwebs in my face when I walk.