It was a very special and emotional Remembrance Day.
The Belgian Tourist Office Brussels & Wallonia has collaborated with Central Saint Martin’s College of Arts and Design to sponsor an art competition as part of the Armistice Day commemoration.
The idea behind the project, as Francoise Scheepers, the manager of the BTO in London perfectly outlined during her inaugural speech, is to bridge the gap between generations. Students who participated to this competition were of the same age group as the soldiers who fought for freedom almost 100 years ago.
The idea is brilliant and, as a member of the selection Committee, I found it particularly hard to choose between the pieces. All of them seen as a whole represent a collective attempt to express, in today’s reality, the atrocity of the Great War: the scale of the conflicts and the numerous battles, the physical and mental suffering of the soldiers and the civil population, the scarcity of food, and the various traumas and losses of human lives. Each student brought his own history and family background into the artistic treatment of the theme. Most of the pieces were accompanied by notes explaining the process and the source of inspiration. These works can currently be viewed at the Gallery@OXO until the 20th of November and, thereafter, they will be transferred to the Gallery of the Swiss Cottage Library in Camden.
Here are the four prizes selected by the Committee.
Prize 1: “Work I” by Jason Pearsall
This student has represented, side by side, a British and a German military jacket. He reproduced and placed on each of the jacket a text of soldiers’ accounts of the Christmas Truce: a German text on the English jacket and an English text on the German jacket.
Prize 2: “Soldiers’ Diaries” by Aizhan Abdrakhmanova
This young artist created a video piece showing archives of soldiers’ diaries. It is accompanied by terrifying sounds of the battlefield interrupted by long moments of silence.
Prize 3: “Men at War” by Katherine Beveridge
This very powerful and fine piece of art depicts a large group of suffering and horrified faces, intertwined and superposed with gas masks and other destructive weapons and equipment.
Prize 4: a photograph by Jack Holt
Jack wanted to express the youthfulness of the British Army and used a found photograph from his grandfather as the basis of the art piece.