If you’ve visited The National Archives since 4 October, you’ll probably have noticed one or more large, cardboard sculptures lurking around the building. The artworks are all part of my solo exhibition, ‘A Graphic War’, which explores the use of graphic design during the First World War.
Look closely at any of the seven pieces and you’ll discover fragments of imagery from the war, transcribed from artefacts such as posters, newspapers, ration cards, postcards, and board games. I’ve remixed their design elements into intricate surfaces that attempt to tell new narratives about the conflict, while visualising the past in a contemporary way.
My artwork is heavily influenced by the shapes and aesthetics of packaging design. When creating the pieces for ‘A Graphic War’ I was curious how the war was ‘packaged’ for public consumption – including the ways that imagery and text were deployed in order to build support at home, to encourage enlistment, and to generally aid the war effort. I was especially interested in the way that many artists (particularly the Futurists and Vorticists) often glorified the war during its early phases – and romanticised newly-developed machinery such as tanks, airplanes, and machine guns within their work.
It’s easy to see the influence of these Vorticist and Futurist designs in my own sculptures – many of which look almost ‘robotic’ or machine-like, giving them a sinister appearance. The most notable example of this is my sculpture titled ‘Blast’ which takes the shape of a large golden machine-gunner wearing an insect-like gas mask. In addition to its Vorticist influences, ‘Blast’ was inspired by a 1970s sculpture titled ‘A Twentieth Century Memorial’ by British artist Michael Sandle, featuring a skeletal Mickey Mouse shooting a Gatling gun. Sandle’s piece both glorified and critiqued war – a familiar paradox that I employ in all my ‘A Graphic War’ sculptures. Continue reading »