As part of the Wilfred Owen centenary commemorations, I have entered a piece in an open art competition. Using the war poets own work as inspiration, artist have been invited to submit their work which, if successful, will be exhibited at the Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery from the end of October 2018 to January 2019.
My successful submission uses Owen's poem "Dulce et Decorum Est (pro patria mori)" Roughly translated as "it is sweet and honourable to die for one's country". The poem talks graphically of the effects of a gas attack, and ends by informing the reader that if they had experienced the reality of war then they "would not tell with such high zest"......that it is honourable to die for one's country.
For my piece I wanted to replicate that uncomfortable and graphic theme from Owen's poem. I've tried to loosely tell a personal story through a photographic collage. You see a solider's hand holding a woman's photo. Is she a sweetheart, a sister, a mother? I leave that up to the viewer to decide. You also see the Union Flag fluttering in the breeze alongside shots of a bleak landscape, mud, a burnout tree, and inside a trench. You also see a solider (the same solider?) frothing at the mouth following a gas attack - "guttering, choking, drowning", along side a solider with bandages covering his eyes. Finally, you see an image of death, a tombstone.
It's not the sort of work that is likely to be commercially successful (you wouldn't really want it on your living-room wall!), and I actually wanted to go more graphic with it, but toned it down to give it a better chance of being exhibited.
You'll note that I have avoided the obvious and cliched fields of poppies shot, which Owen himself would not have recognised as having relevance it does for us today.
Below is the collage I have submitted, but I have mounted it on wooden boards with a strip of webbing stencilled with the words "Dulce et Decorum est" to add extra context.
The exhibition opens on the 25th October and visitors have a chance of voting for their favourite piece.......just saying.