A Victoria artist’s Remembrance Day exhibition in Britain features sculptures of a golden machine-gunner and a zeppelin-shaped dove.
Ian Kirkpatrick’s new series of four sculptures, A Graphic War, was installed Nov. 1 at various outdoor locations in Leeds. As well as the gunner and the dove, the series includes a Britannia figure on a tank and a war-horse/unicorn.
Funded by the Leverhulme Trust, the project was a $30,000 commission from Leeds Museums and Galleries, where Kirkpatrick is completing a year-long artist’s residency.
The sculptures are on display until the end of November at Leeds City Museum, a shopping centre, a market and a design shop.
They are inspired by First World War imagery. The exhibition was created in consultation with a curator from Leeds Museums and Galleries.
The artworks are made from corrugated cardboard and plastic. Kirkpatrick, 39, said his work is influenced by commercial packaging design.
The sculptures, which took 300 hours to make, were designed on computers and assembled in a “flat-pack” style that is collapsible.
The Victoria native, now living in York, attended Stelly’s Secondary School and the University of Victoria.
Kirkpatrick’s machine-gunner sculpture, titled Blast, shows a helmeted, gas-masked figure portrayed in a Cubist-influenced style. The artist says it’s intended to reflect the idealism surrounding the early days of the First World War.
“People were almost enthusiastic about the war. People had never been in a world war before, so they didn’t realize how crazy it was going to get,” he said.
The sculpture Enemy of the Stars portrays a dove in the shape of a broken zeppelin holding an olive branch.
“It has the feeling of peace being broken. But the peace is questionable because the peace dove is also shaped like a big military zeppelin. It’s an ambivalent statement about what peace ever was.”
Kirkpatrick said he was initially worried about the reaction to his artworks, done in a bold, contemporary style. However, so far public response has been positive, with the exhibition receiving favourable coverage from the BBC and other media.
“You don’t want to be critical of people’s contributions to the war. But at the same time, it’s war. You have to be critical of the notion of war,” Kirkpatrick said. He said his sculptures are not intended to make “specific judgments” on war or the military.
Kirkpatrick has lived in the U.K. for the past seven years. He resides there with his wife, a lecturer at the University of York.