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Peace Machine No. 2

Peace Machine No. 2 at the Passion For Freedom festival, Mall Galleries 2015

In 2015 I was invited to Ukraine to speak about provocative art at the Eastern Partnership Culture Congress Lviv. The theme was ‘The Mission of Culture During Crisis’. This was the first time I’d been to a country that was at war on its own territory.

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 There I met a woman whose brother had been wounded, whilst fighting at the front and was now convalescing. She took from her handbag the pieces of shrapnel that had hit him and a heavy calibre bullet and showed them to me.

I was instantly drawn to these objects, which I saw as little nuggets of human suffering. They were tangible symbols of the horror of war. It is visceral and disturbing to handle something that has torn through a human body. Since I always travel with my casting materials, I asked her if I may borrow them and turned my hotel room into a workshop to make plaster copies. I didn’t know what I would do with them but I knew I wanted to do something.

My maternal grandfather was from Ukraine and escaped to the UK from revolutionary Russia. My paternal grandfather was gassed in the trenches in WWI. My parents endured WWII. Perhaps I was foolish to never imagine I’d see such scenes as thus in Europe in my lifetime. It makes me feel sick. I feel for the soldiers, the civilians and especially the children. They are all victims and their whole lives will be blighted. I myself suffer from PTSD so I know what is waiting for so many of the survivors.

“War is young men dying and old men talking” Franklin D. Roosevelt

War and peace, nationhood and identity have been continual themes in my work. “Peace Machine Number 1” I made whilst still at art school. I often incorporate casts of emotionally loaded objects like these in my work. This is how my artworks begin. Something like this niggles me. It’s like picking at a loose thread. I find out what I’m doing and why by doing it. As I worked with these objects the concept slowly revealed itself to me. I decided there is something obscene about children playing with war toys. I remember being obsessed with them. But when you think about it it’s grotesque. Taking a child’s toy and converting it into something sinister as a fundraiser became my adult obsession.

I’ve converted an arcade vending machine to resemble a mortar bomb. Normally these machines dispense trinkets like toy soldiers to children. But this one isn’t for kids and war isn’t a game. These capsules contain plaster casts of the shrapnel and bullet. They are an analogue for the ball bearings used in explosive devices. Have a play and take your chances if you get shrapnel or a bullet. When you hold these items in your hand I hope it will affect you in the same way it affected me. Peace has a chance when war is no longer considered an option.

This piece is about all wars but its genesis in Ukraine means I must use it now to help the people there. I must make a stand.

This is the only place you can buy original artworks by me for just £2.00!! Try to collect all three pieces. All money collected I will personally donate to Voices of Children, a Ukrainian charity helping children affected by this war.

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Final Assembly

Finished Parts

Modifying the Vending Machine

Casting the Bullet and Shrapnel