Rain-soaked soldiers in no-man’s land; faces ruined by mechanised warfare; depictions of poppy fields – images such as these form Lines of Conflict, an exhibition of contemporary artwork commemorating and reflecting on World War One.
The showcase of work by members of the Yorkshire Sculptors Group and invited artists, which opens at Batley Art Gallery tomorrow (September 6), has taken the conflict as its theme, exploring the many ways war destroys lives and homes.
Some of the works have already been seen in an exhibition at Scarborough Art Gallery, which examined the bombardment of the town by German warships in the early hours of December 16, 1914.
Regional artists were asked to submit paintings, illustrations, photographs and sculptures for Lines of Conflict and 20 were selected to present their work.
They include YSG member Terence Hammill, who is showing a series of drawings entitled Mugshots, based on the sketches made between 1914 and 1918 by Henry Tonks, a professor at the Slade School of Art and a qualified surgeon. Henry depicted the facial wounds of soldiers disfigured in battle. Terence has taken the sketches and explored how far an image can be disfigured before it loses its identity, thereby exposing the inhumanity of warfare.
Another sculptor, Linda Thompson, has focused her pieces around the vulnerability of children and families in wartime. In one artwork she has taken a fractured doll’s head and inscribed within it the names of individuals who died in the bombardment of Scarborough.
Victoria Ferrance Scott, also of YSG, has taken images of shells lined up in factories and used them to create sculptural forms covered in curtain fabrics - a reference to the daily ritual of drawing back the curtains being abruptly interrupted by enemy attack and the fact that civilians weren’t safe in their own homes.
Among other works on display are those that take a more direct, representational approach to war. Paul Heeley and Richard Yeomans depict scenes from the trenches; Andrew Pert attacks the anonymity and dehumanising qualities of conflict with scenes showing rows of identical figures in battle; John Chamberlain focuses on the kindness of strangers thrust together in adversity with his drawing of a nurse giving a soldier a cigarette in the American hospital in Neuilly, France; and photographer Ruth Robson has created a series of memorial photographs as a reminder of the debt owed to those who fought and fell.
Exhibition organiser Mark Milnes says the theme of this year’s show brought an enthusiastic response from the artists involved.
“We’ve had some very thoughtful and original responses,” he added, “I’m certain it will work together beautifully and create a coherent and thought-provoking statement for our gallery visitors.”
For Batley Festival Day, on September 27, visitors to the gallery will be invited to make their own commemorative poppy with artist Kay Dawson and plant it in a special ‘field’ within the gallery.
The exhibition can be seen six days a week (the gallery is closed on Sundays).
It opens at 9.30 am on weekdays and 9am on Saturdays. Closing times vary.
Further information on Kirklees commemorative projects can be found at www.kirklees.gov.uk/lestweforget