Lys Hansen’s connection with France reaches back to scholarships in Provence as a student, as au pair for the Martell family at Cognac, teaching painting in Tarn.

Following invitations to exhibit at Lille when it was European City of Culture, and at Villeneuve d’Ascq, she researched an event that has affected her strongly. Her large painting The Trial, one from her later exhibition at Villeneuve, Souvenir Andenken is a response to that event.

On Palm Sunday in 1944, a detachment of 17-23 year old SS Hitlerjugend soldiers carried out reprisals for a train derailment and shot dead some 86 villagers of Ascq. Their Oberleutnant Hacke, who had ordered the massacre, was brought to trial along with several of his command at the end of the war. They were found guilty and condemned to death. The villagers of Ascq, however, asked that the sentences be commuted to imprisonment instead: they had had enough of killing.

Even today, the massacre is remembered by an annual commemorative service. The dedicated museum at Ascq is a constant reminder of what happened there, and houses the documentation of the happening. Lys Hansen’s large painting, The Trial, is a response to that massacre and to Man’s inhumanity to Man. Poignantly, M. Hubert’s coat, which can be seen in the painting, with the machine-gun bullet holes, stands as a witness to the event.

This terrible event is not so well-known perhaps as the massacre of over 700 villagers by German soldiers at Oradour-sur-Glane. Conflict provided the occurrence of these massacres: the two villages, and the villagers within them, tend to differ in attitude …between revenge and reconciliation…between Oubliez jamais and Souvenir.

Image: detail The Trial, Lt Hacke

<em>The Trial</em> (diptych). 2006, oil, 203x356cm.
<em>The Trial</em> (detail: the accused)
<em>The Trial</em> (detail: the scribe)
<em>The Trial</em> (detail: Lt Hacke on trial)
<em>The Trial</em> (detail: the coat)
<em>Memories of Ascq</em>. 2007, oil, 100x100cm.
<em>Memories of Ascq</em> (detail: head)
<em>Memories of Ascq</em> (detail: head)
<em>Ascq: the funeral</em>