Memory, 2016 is an important work for understanding Hafftka’s philosophy of painting. Based on a recurring dream he had as a young child, the memory of it in later life was to bring him to a significant epiphany that changed his approach to painting:
"When I was a child before the age of 10, I had a recurring nightmare that woke me up in a cold sweat shivering with fear. The nightmare was that I was on a railroad handcar pumping relentlessly, going in all directions simultaneously at the speed of light and at any moment I would be completely obliterated. I never told my parents about the nightmare but every time it happened I was overwhelmed by it. Then one night I decided that I am not going to wake up, I am going to continue on the car and see what happens. The most astonishing thing happened, the experience turned to pleasure. In fact it was so desirable, I tried to recreate the feeling over and over again." - Hafftka.
On discovering a quote from Joseph Campbell’s Sukhavati: Place of Bliss: A Mythic Journey, Hafftka’s anxieties about painting were brought into sharp relief: the idea was that by switching a metaphorical fall into an unknown future into a voluntary act, hell becomes paradise. Applying that to painting, Hafftka realised that he had to abandon himself completely to the process of painting in order to succeed. This process of risking all then manifests itself in his works through an emotional intensity and technical energy which allow the full force of his vision to come to the fore. Hafftka’s nightmare in youth has become his art’s panacea.
"And Israel stretched out his right hand, and laid it upon Ephraim’s head, who was the younger, and his left hand upon Manasseh’s head, guiding his hands wittingly; for Manasseh was the first-born. [Genesis37:36 The Hebrew Bible in English according to the JPS 1917 Edition]." From "Stories from the Bible" by Michael Hafftka, https://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-hafftka/stories-from-the-bible_b_4491233.html
In this biblical story, Israel traditionally should have placed his right hand on the head of the elder boy to bless him; instead, he deliberately blesses the younger boy, Ephraim. This painting represents the struggle that Hafftka sometimes has in treating his children equitably.