If you take a look at the word cloud on the front page of the blog, it will instantly tell you about the art I have a real desire for. One of the larger tags is for war art.
However, the link will take you to mainly first world war and a little of the second. The fact that we would send artists to the front was incredible back then, but what I hadn’t taken into account is that fact that we still have an Official War Artists today.
In 1994, Peter Howson, whose body of work since 1983 has been nothing short of extraordinary, was commissioned to go to Bosnia and what he saw there was startling in the face of the Geneva convention but expected in modern war fare.
A visit to Manchester Art Gallery for The Sensory War in January 2015 introduced me to Peter Howson and the link to his website gives you the full scale of the depravity of war that is becoming all too familiar to us today. The short film: Peter Howson – Face in the Crowd gives us more on this subject.
However, a visit to Trent Art in Newcastle, Staffordshire (hello, Henry and Ruth) revealed another side of Peter Howson that I was struck by. These two paintings, Miners and The Last Step are stunning in the way Howson depicts these faces:
The two are part of the current exhibition ‘Works on Paper’ and really do need to be viewed in person. The miner’s blue eyes stand out from the coal smeared face. The two men are focused on something reflected in the miners’ lamps and in turn we are focused on their craggy, work worn faces.
This is a similar theme to The First Step. The whole body looks defeated and the muted palette seems in opposition to the title; he looks as if he is about to take the last step, not the first.
Howson’s work is highly collectable; the one I saw in Manchester was owned by David Bowie, no less! It is easy to see why he appeals and even a small look at his body of work can leave you wanting more, yet wanting to look away too.