In September 2013 I watched a BBC documentary about soldiers returning from the conflict in Afghanistan, I was moved by the ways that some had come through their experience apparently untroubled, but many had returned deeply traumatised.
These very young men and women became soldiers with a prospect of a great adventure, where they may have imagined themselves invincible. After intense training, entering a conflict is an extreme test of their endurance; a rite of passage, often spoken of as the movement from childhood to becoming adult, and amidst times of being very close to death.
They have been initiated and tested in battle and many return to their families wounded in mind and body, searching for meaning. Some find it extremely difficult to relate both to those close to them and most significantly to cope with conflict within themselves.
In these most recent works I am exploring relationships and the way experiences of war impact emotionally on the warrior and those they love. The figures are a personal response to these emotional states of mind, emerging out of numerous stories from news reports, drama, film, art and poetry. They are not associated with any particular war, their stories are universal and ever recurring. War is often referred to as ‘theatre’ and as such, the figures are the dramatis personae in a sculptural drama.
I have chosen to work in terra cotta. Clay has an affinity with flesh: in the words of Antony Gormley “clay is the medium that can become an extension of the flesh in a way that no other medium can”. The colour comes from iron in the earth and directly connects to iron in our blood. In the firing, the clay hardens, mirroring the hardening of the warrior coming from the ‘heat’ of battle . In using terra cotta I am following in a tradition of figurative sculpture in this medium.
Watching the BBC documentary I was struck by the connection these present day soldiers have with Gilgamesh, the subject of my previous work. The Epic of Gilgamesh, is one of the earliest accounts of a Mesopotamian warrior king. He sought to gain immortality through various heroic exploits.
After many adventures Gilgamesh is advised;
“Cherish the little one holding thy hand,
And let thy wife rejoice in thy bosom.
This is the lot of mankind”…….. R.S. Kluger 1991 P.179