In the year which marks the centenary of the start of the First World War, Shock and Awe at the Royal West of England Academy considers past, contemporary and continuing conflicts. It highlights work by contemporary artists recently exposed to the front-line in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Balkans, as well as providing a platform for artists fascinated by acts of remembrance, or who use their art as a form of protest against war and conflict.
This is a third selection of the works on show. See Shock and Awe: A Selection of Works for others.
House of Cards, 2014, steel and enamel
A recently discovered family postcard inspired Stephen Bottomley’s work. In 1915, during the First World War, his Great Uncle Maurice was a seventeen-year old soldier. Maurice sent his mother a photo postcard depicting him at an army training camp in Hertfordshire, telling her he was due to leave for military action. Bottomley has revisited the traditional medium of photography, using ‘digital processes and craft to open a window into the past.’
Meddle - White Light, 2012, metal, acrylic, embroidery and toy soldiers
Michael Brennand-Wood regards conflict as being resource-led. He created these works as ‘campaign medals’ for the unwelcome interference in people’s lives in a situation of war. The three large works are made from toy plastic soldiers - the real life human version are a key resource in conflicts.
Interrogation Expert: Abu Ghraib, 2007, sterling silver, copper and vitreous enamel
Kathleen Browne’s pieces adhere loosely to the form of American military badges, with the inclusion of symbolic imagery and text to convey information. The works reference the US military’s mistreatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and Abu Ghraib, Iraq, during the Iraq War. By ‘awarding medals’ commemorating these shameful events, Browne critiques the US government’s involvement in the conflict.
Observe, 2014, steel, enamel, and paper
Helen Carnac uses the concept of silence as an act of remembrance for the focus of her work, which incorporates found objects. Observing a period of silence to commemorate those who have died in conflict has become a traditional public act of respect. The Times newspaper first referenced observing silence on 7 November 1919, almost a year after the end of the First World War.
Found and Given, 2014, found metal and ribbon
George Coutouvidis is a painter who spends time wandering the Karoo, a large tract of semi-desert land in Western Cape, South Africa. Later in his studio, Coutouvidis assembles ‘fake’ medals using everyday detritus and objects he finds while walking, such as pieces of scrap metal, bottle tops and fragments of material.
‘Cuando Parti Una Mañana De Verano' (As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning), 2014, enamel, steel and oxidised silver (un-hallmarked)
The Spanish Civil War, which took place between 1936 and 1939, is the focus of Susan Cross’ series of five brooches. The conflict was a testing ground for experimental military operations which were later deployed in the Second World War. Cross has selected poignant texts from writers and poets who were inspired by the period, juxtaposing the words with archival photographs printed onto fabric.
Tamar de Vries Winter
Memory Bowls and Badges, 2014, copper
1 Lachmann - Berlin - Palestine 1933; 2 Elsa Berlin 1943 - Theresiensatdat; 3 Dolorosa; 4 Walls & Fences; 5 Jerusalem - Place of Calm; 6 Bowl of hope
Tamar de Vries Winter’s family sought refuge in Israel after escaping Nazi persecution in Germany and Holland during WW2. The badges explore the experiences of refugees; those who have survived and who remember those who perished in their pursuit of safety. Enamelling is particularly important to her work: ‘The process of printing on enamel provides a powerful tool for transforming memories of upheaval and
dislocation into something permanent.’
Gratitude, 1998, brooch, iron, and pyrite
Memento Mori, 1993, brooch, iron, copper and enamel
Dove sta Memoria, 1993, brooch, iron and copper
Non Memoriae x Sed Gloriae. USA 1991, 1991, brooch, iron, copper and enamel
Bettina Dittlmann’s work addresses different types of conflict. Dove sta Memoria (Where is Memory) references attacks on asylum-seekers’ homes in 1993 by far right extremists in Germany. The 1990-1991 Gulf War is the subject matter of Non Memoriae x Sed Gloriae (Not Memory but Glory) and Memento Mori (Remember That You Will Die). A newspaper photograph of a bombarded Iraqi building and burning oil wells were the respective triggers for the pieces.
Woven Stories, 2002, tinplate transfer
The wreath is a symbolic form, which is traditionally created from intertwining leaves, flowers and objects, forming ‘a visual language of remembrance.’ The association of objects with memories of people informed Haydon’s piece. Letters, photographs and other material collected by Haydon’s grandfather George Ions, who fought during the Second World War, inspired the imagery in Woven Stories.
Images provided by RWA: (c)all rights reserved.
Shock and Awe was curated by Professor Paul Gough RWA as part of Back From the Front: Art Memory and the Aftermath of War. This programme was supported by Bristol 2014, University of the West of England, Arts Council England and the Bristol Cultural Development Partnership. Paul Gough is one of the artists commissioned as part of the Bristol 2014 Arts Projects. He is lecturing on Paul Nash and Stanley Spencer on 11 November 2014 at the Wills Memorial Building. We will feature additional artworks in a future article on this website.
Dr Hazel Brown is Project Research Assistant, UWE First World War Centenary projects. Hazel’s PhD thesis compared how, and the extent to which, the non-Jewish victims of the Holocaust are portrayed in two genres of post-war representation - the museum installation and the memorial - in the US and the UK. She formerly worked at the Imperial War Museum London as a Research Assistant in the Department of Holocaust and Genocide History, then as a Researcher on the Once Upon A Wartime: Classic War Stories for Children exhibition and subsequently on a freelance basis on the Secret War exhibition.