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As a child I was always interested in military. My imagination's default setting was military. Any walk through the bush was a WW2 jungle scene from "The Sullivan's", any sand castle at the beach was a front line entrenchment position against an impending Japanese amphibious landing. If I ran up a hill, I was running for Sari Bair or the heights of IwoJima. My rugby coach would reprimand me for pretending to get shot during training. I'm forty now, and sadly nothing has changed. I won a game of tennis against my wife (a far superior player) the other day, only because I started channelling Churchill standing up to Georing and his Luftwaffe in the Battle of Britain.
I'm not a person who likes violence mind you; I fainted in the opening scene of "Saving Private Ryan", and during the spoon scene in "Master and Commander". There is something in me, however, that has a natural fascination for war. This has often put me at odds with my artistic peers and yet I still fail to see art and war as being incompatible.
Art and war are opposites no doubt. Oscar Wilde said art is essentially "an unnecessary distraction", while Hemingway alluded to the urgency of war, saying it is the only thing that reveals man's true nature. Yet at the same time, these two archetypal opposites share a common relationship. Goya once wrote on one of his Caprichos engravings, "The sleep of reason producers monsters", which to me says a lot about the urgency of art, the "avant guard" of reason, in avoiding the otherwise inevitability of war.
History shows us that art and war have much to share. Both Hitler and Churchill were artists. After the failure of the Dardenelles campaign, when Churchill was sacked as First Lord of the Admiralty, the only thing that kept him from being engulfed completely from the "black dog" was landscape painting, a pastime, he later remarked, which employed all the intellectual faculties of a commander in chief.
It's important to remember also, that Kaiser Wilhelm and his cousins, George and Nick, did far more to influence the emergence of Modern Art than Picasso or Cezanne ever did. In 1940 a German SS officer came to Picasso's home in Paris and asked, "Are you the man responsible for the degenerate art work, Genica?" (a painting about the bombing of innocent victims by the Nazis). "No sir", he replied, "you are the man responsible". While art may strive to affect the outcome of war, war always has a fundamental effect on art.
I am an unusual artist. I'm not so interested in isolating my individual identity for the sake of the self. My love in art is a shared love, a love that interacts with the culture around me, that finds expression in shared experiences. That culture was basically desecrated in 1914. World War 1 was not just a tragedy of colossal loss of life for this country, this tragedy goes much deeper, it can be seen I many ways as the end of our sense of humanity.
One hundred years later we are still feeling the wounds from this disaster. As an artist, I want to do my duty to bring this terrible story closer to a point of resolution.