Sunday, 13 July 2014


at the PANGOLIN GALLERY until August 23rd

Human Connections, Main Figure, 1990, Bronze, Cement and Wood, 107 cm high x 113cm wide, photo by Steve Russell
This is probably the largest piece in the exhibition (see Blog 292 for two other works). From a distance it wouldn't look out of place in a cathedral as a memorial tomb to some grandee, surrounded by protective railing. Go close up and peer down at the vulnerable contents. For a moment it becomes a child's cot. (See Ken Currie's Steel Cot (Blog 247)). 

Human Connections,  1990, Bronze, Cement and Wood, 107 cm high x 113 cm wide, photo by Steve Russell
The foot and ankle are the first recognisable  indications that we are looking at the depiction of a corpse buried in debris. A number of battlefield still lives in the exhibition were inspired by what was exposed in the early 70s by a JCB in a section of the front line near La Boiselle: fish tins, a knife and fork, medical instruments and bottles saw the light of day after 60 years. They are a poignant illustration of what the poet Wilfred Owen called 'the pity of war and the pity war distills'.  One of Hurst's arresting bronzes, Tambour, also in the exhibition, incorporates some of them.   'These relics of the ordinary lives of ordinary men are far more eloquent than waving flags and displays of polished killing machines'. 

 But in Human Connections why so many carcasses of books burnt, fossilised, torn, their content scooped out? Is this a reminder of how often and how powerfully the written word - such as Mein Kampf - was used to stir up hatred between nations and races. I had the good fortune to meet Steve Hurst at the Pangolin. He explained that it's not so much about what happened before war as war's aftermath. It's one of several works which present a visceral challenge to our concept of memory, remembrance and official history, works which are particularly pertinent in this centenary year.
 'The history of the Great War is not only mendacious, it shames our country...Since the death of Harry Patch, the last soldier to serve on the Front Line in WW1, the Government and right wing historians can publish what they like'.

The artist argues that his attitude to war, like his work, is ambiguous. He was child in WW2 and says he never regretted the 10 years he spent serving in the army. 'Unfortuantely recent wars have been those of aggression rather than defence'.

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