Reflections of War
100 years after the start of the First World War, Reflections of War is an exhibition of contemporary war art, which focuses not on the political aspects of war, but examines war's human cost. Comprising of photography, sculpture, works on paper, and oil paintings, this exhibition explores how artists use their chosen mediums to investigate the nature of the human condition when confronted with the devastation of war.
The majority of the artists included in this exhibition are drawing from personal experiences of war, having been directly affected by recent international conflicts. John Keane was commissioned as the Official Recorder for the Gulf War by the Imperial War Museum, whilst Peter Howson, obsessed by the images of suffering following the outbreak of the conflict, became the official War Artist for the Bosnia Civil War. Both artists have since been hugely influenced by their experiences in these war zones. Peter Howson's work often focuses on the plight of refugees; those forcibly displaced due to persecution, conflict, generalized violence, or human rights violations. Iraq artist Hanaa Malallah, who has herself been living as a refugee in London over the last five years, cites her physical experiences as the catalyst for her practice, which she has termed Ruins Technique. Incorporating burning, distressing and the obliterating of material within her works, Malallah describes this as using the 'intrinsically destructive process to engender the visceral experience of the reality of war irrespective of its geographic/political particular.'
Heidi Levine's photographs are taken from her series One Land Two People, looking here at children living on either side of the Gaza strip. Having never experienced a time of peace, their superheroes are local militants totting weapons often larger than the children themselves.
The reality of war for many is that behind the now extraordinarily advanced weaponry, there is a solider. Hetherington's intimate portraits of American servicemen in Afghanistan show men as perhaps how their mothers would see them, vulnerable and sleeping soundly, often under the influence of sleeping pills on their military bunks. Hetherington's interest in the human impact of combat was a feature of his career, which was cut short in 2011 when he was killed in a mortar attack in Misrata, Libya, aged 40.
In his work painted for this exhibition Officers of the Great War, 2014, Ken Currie depicts a series of proud and pompous uniformed figures posing in the masks of men who have been facially disfigured. Currie aims to highlight the cruelty of society's tendency to display a shocking lack of empathy for those physically or mentality scarred by war.