Thursday is Armistice day. The eleventh day of the eleventh month and at 11.00am there will be 2 minutes silence. I repeat silence!
It’s a custom started the year after The Great War ended. And how important it is! Marking the moment the guns fell silent! Supposedly forever. The war to end all wars it was called! It should be in the past!
But it was not the end. Numerous “conflicts” later we are still fighting wars. Films glorify fighting and “achievements” of war. But also those which depict the true horrors. The senseless waste of life. I’ve always believed there are many causes worth dying for, but none worth killing for. Sure, there are situations of self-defence and I pray I am never in that situation. But killing for beliefs or territory, is so wrong!
Have we, as a society, learned nothing? Maybe I’m naive but it should be possible to solve conflicts without resorting to war! The problem is always greed and a perverse desire for retribution at all costs. But do the
millions billions of dollars made through arms trading outweigh the millions billions it costs? To rebuild homes, schools and services, treat the injured and care for the orphaned. Oh yes I forgot, the cost is not borne by the recipient’s of the arms profits, is it?
But the true cost is lives lost, the potential of lives stricken in their youth, young men and women, some only teenagers! Have we lost another Einstein or the person who will find the cure for Cancer? The answer is probably yes! But we will never know!
Over the years, Artists have sought to depict the dubious glory of war, but also its horror and futility. To try and make sense of it all!
This week’s edition of “The genius of British Art” had Jon Snow discussing war artist’s. Names such as Nevinson, Stanley Spencer , and Steve McQueen. The latter presenting “Queen and Country” a large wooden cabinet with vertical draws. Each drawer contained a sheet of stamps made up of one soldier’s image, their age and the date they died. 160 different soldiers who died in Iraq. Simple concept but so profound!
The number of deaths in any war can be reduced to just that, cold, hard numbers. But not to those who loved them! Queen and country shows the individual cost of war! An idea that emphasises the personal sacrifice of those lost. Numbers are meaningless, forgettable. Smiling, happy, faces full of promise are not!
I read that some 10,000,000 people died during World War 1 alone. My brain cannot picture that number! It prompted me to create this piece which I showed you last year. One in 10,000,000 reflections of a life lost. A way to put a face to 1 of that number, Albert Harrison.
He is one of those missing in action, never found, whose loss is still remembered today. He’s not the only member of my family who suffered, but his story helps me to connect personally with the devastation caused by one fallen soldier. Now imagine 10,000,000 plus all the rest before and since!
Those who are fighting for us should be supported in the difficult task abroad. They need the best equipment and training possible and full recognition of their countrymen. I appreciate what they do, I know I couldn’t do it!. But I question why they should have to fight in the first place? We have to find a better way!
The true horror of war should never be forgotten! So that we will always work to avoid it. War artists, help us remember and question!
Is there a piece of war art that moves you or helps you remember?
Or have you felt compelled to create something?