War Art and Artists
of Peace and
Commission in the
d’art’ and the
paraphernalia of war
| Featured Artist :
As a new feature in the War Artist's section, periodically we showcase
a different artist and their work in this field. The current Featured
Artist is Elizabeth Turrell.
Turrell uses the medium of enamel in different ways to address her
duel interests in the personal and political. One theme is an intimate
celebration of the stitch. For generations of women, sewing and
basic stitching have been quotidian tasks as well as intimate, portable,
and often subversive means of expression. Turrell has always loved
“white work,” especially mended and darned cloth, and
she honors this labor in a series of monochromatic “samplers”
of all white enamel on “sewn” copper foil.
Conversely, Turrell’s overtly topical, political commentaries
are produced on pre-enamelled industrial steel, using layered liquid
enamels in a painterly application. With names like Friendly
Fire and In Memoriam
she explores “the broad theme of conflict as seen almost daily
on the small rectangle of the television screen or newspaper photograph”.
She conveys her revulsion with the “horrifying, but often
removed and sanitized” news reports to which modern viewers
may have become inured through repetition. She notes that “these
news items often come with the ‘warning’ that the viewer
may find them disturbing”. Tally of
a War, a large, potent, but still intimate
enamel on steel (34x 25cm), counts the war dead; it is cross-hatched,
layered, and drawn, like a pen and ink drawing or graffiti scratched
in a cell wall, with irregular circles X-ed out. Many, many circles,
and many, many S’s count up the anonymous victims of war.
Just as nothing is untouched in war, there is no space unmarked
in the composition. On the surface these pieces refer to the Gulf
War, but they may have their impetus is the crucible of Turrell’s
childhood experience of World War II with her family in England,
a theme to which she refers in an oblique way in her explicitly
From a review by Marjorie Simon,
a metalsmith and writer living in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Elizabeth Turrell is a Senior Research
Fellow in Enamel, Centre for Fine Print Research, UWE
Simple repetition of form is powerfully employed in work by ElizabethTurrell.
"Markers of Conflict"
is comprised of a series of closely placed X forms covering a wall
from below the waist to over one's head. Larger than a badge or
brooch, too small to be a sign for conveying information to the
public at large, these works are of the size and gesture to have
been furtively marked on a door in the dead of night.
Enameled surfaces pocked with gold, red, and glossy white illustrate
physical wear and fatigue, with repeated perforations, scraps of
and an obsessive marking that feels like tallying. Their individual
characteristics prevent them from being consumed as mementos.
Experienced simultaneously they bear witness to events too unbearably
commonplace to comprehend, man's inhumanity to man.
- beyond the Object' catalogue essay
by Kim Cridler,
Arts/Industry Coordinator for the John Michael Kohler Art Centre,
Exhibition at 'Spaces', Cleveland Ohio, June-August 2005
Previous Featured Artists:
Anna Farthing & Paul Gough