Ten years later, in 2000, I was invited to be part of a sculpture trail in Hoek van Holland -'Kunst over de grens' ('Art crossing the border'). On a brief visit there I had to choose a location in the town and make an appropriate art piece for it. The international trains had stopped running some years earlier but the long empty platforms remained. It was here that I proposed to make my work. The empty eerie platform had a history and allure of far off distant lands but for me it also had a personal connection.
My father’s family had been deported during World War Two from eastern Poland to ‘Siberia’ by Stalin’s NKVD police during an ethnic/political cleansing operation in 1940. The family were transported in box cars and although they were repatriated to Poland after the war they never went back to their original home, which still remains part of Russia to this day.
My father resettled in England after the war. When I was a child he built a shed in the garden for my train set and like most children’s train sets it went around in a circle. When I grew up I realised this was at odds with the relationship to trains he had as a child. For him they were very real, went in a straight line and never came home again.
My plan was to lay a train set in a wooden box car at the platform in the old international station. I planned to paint a landscape on the interior. In effect this would have been a very large painting in a box. The destination on the carriage would read ‘Vladivostok’, in essence connecting the toy train to the other side of the Euro-Asian mainland.