FWIS War in retrospect: evaluating the cost

Dealing with the overarching theme of the inevitable consequences of wartime, this exhibition demonstrates the multitude of ways that the effects of war can be interpreted by the individual. “War in Retrospect” is inspired by varying depictions of the perceptions of war and associated violent imagery. Some see victory and great conquest, others see death and destruction. However, they ask similar questions. What is the right reaction to war? How does society stomach the violence and horrors aimed at other people?

In a barren landscape lies a pile of skulls. Aptly named "The Apotheosis of War", with apotheosis meaning, "the highest point in the development of something." The height of war is simply a pile of skulls. The farthest moral victory a war will ever get is a rising death toll. The height of war is measured by the height of a pile of skulls.
This iconic war image, named after a Biblical passage, poignantly shows cannonballs littering a road. With no human figures in sight and a depressing road looping in the background, the cannonballs symbolize the death and destruction from war. This photograph encourages the viewer to pause and reevaluate the consequences of war. Although the message is not explicit, the photograph raises questions on how beneficial war really is.
Alexey and Sergey Tkachev's Memories of the War exudes a sense of melancholy and loss. The arrangement of the empty military coat and discarded helmet, boots, and rifle seem to draw attention to the absent figure to whom they belong. The course texture of the brushstrokes suggest that these memories of the war are not likely to be particularly positive. The bare wood paneling behind the items serves to remove the idea of a glorious presentation, and creates a homely atmosphere which focuses the viewer on contemplation of the experiences of the individual to whom these items belong or belonged.
The tragic nude woman in the foreground of George Clausen's Youth Mourning demonstrates the emotional impact that war can have on the individual. The barren landscape heightens the effect that the youth is the lone survivor of a violent event that has destroyed all those around her. This painting is a reaction to the new horrors of widespread war experienced during WWI and the figure is believed to be representative of Clausen's daughter mourning the loss of her fiancee.
This piece by Paul Nash, entitled "Wire" shows a clear depiction of the devastating effects of war on the landscape of the areas involved. The brutal destruction of nature by man-made fortifications that is depicted in this piece can be seen as a metaphorical representation of the destruction of life by increasingly more violent weapons that are employed in war.
Paul Nash's depiction of the Battle of Germany is highly surrealist and striking. Muted colors dominate the landscape, with one burnt orange colored streak that resembles smoke or fire stretching across the sky. This work was commissioned by the War Artists' Advisory Committee (WAAC) and represents a city in the foreground awaiting its possible destruction as a factory burns in the background. It seems to suggest the violence of war and destruction caused on the landscape without directly connecting these images to reality, making the effects seem detached from actual tangible cities in war zones.
Carlist Soldier Playing the Bugle was a poster from a series of Civil Wars in Spain called the Carlist Wars. It represents the war much more favorably, as the soldier figure plays his trumpet in a display of patriotism. The sunset-colored background seems to suggest an imminent end to the conflict and draw on stereotypical images of the victorious hero wandering off into an expansive sunset.
After the Bombings in Granollers is a documentary photograph taken during the Spanish Civil War. It represents the brutal destruction caused by the bombing and the effects on the structures of the city that took place. The stark black and white nature of this photograph, as well as its inclusion of the broken buildings as well as the rubble below shows the material cost and damages associated with wartime.
This painting exhibits the assembly of aircraft parts with careful brushstrokes and dark colors. Lights illuminate this awe-inspiring operation. The painting portrays the construction of these war machines with a sense of beauty. In fact the artist was commissioned by the UK government to paint war in a positive light. There is a sense that war spurs people into creation.
This splotchy brown and white sculpture depicts a seated soldier called "Sacheonwang". This is a supernatural guardian of good and fighter of evil in the Buddhist tradition. Along with the title, "Iraq War", this shows a call to the restoration of good in the modern day immoral Iraq War. In fact, this piece fits into a broader collection of pieces by the artist prefixed with the title, "Taking a Lesson from the Past." Society does not take a lesson from the past when it comes to war.
Kara Walker's Scene of McPherson's Death depicts a historical photograph of the Civil War which is superimposed by a silhouette of a runaway slave with a severed foot. This piece deals with the brutal reality that was slavery and the traumatic repercussions of the Civil War on America.
This shockingly violent, bloody piece by Boc Su Jung titled Hand of the Victorious causes the viewer to question what the true meaning of victory actually is. The presentation of the sculpture suggests a trophy of some sort, while its mangled appearance calls into question whether the owner of this hand was truly victorious and whether such a victory was truly worth the price associated with it.
Gely Korzhev's The Victory of Those Alive and Dead is striking in the juxtaposition of the skeleton's clearly deceased nature with its lively and jovial stance. The piece causes the viewer to question the validity of the figure's apparent belief that the cost of his life was worth the victory that inspired this celebratory stance. Is the skeletal soldier really the one who is victorious? Korzhev seems to be suggesting that war causes people to become so caught up in the fight for victory that they lose sight of their own mortality.
Triumphal Return of Victorious Japanese Imperial Army from Asan by Watanabe Nobukazu is a sharp contrast to the depiction of victory in the previous piece. The military regalia scattered throughout the piece as well as the emphasis on the victorious officers created by the contrasting color of their uniform places the primary focus on the positive association of war and victory. This piece masterfully avoids any depictions of bloodshed or wounds, and leaves out any deceased or wounded returning soldiers from the triumphant procession that is shown.
The Australian artist Albert Tucker shows discontent with war in this piece. Two large, sullen male soldiers are grasping brightly painted women with red, white, and blue skirts, red lips, and breast with clearly protruding ribs in an expressionist style. The soldiers are presumably committing morally degradable acts on these women. The colors of the skirt, patriotic Australian colors, lead to an ironic expression of patriotism. The "victory" of war leads to the moral decline of all involved.
This painting, also by Tucker, shows a hectic conglomeration of body parts. Named after Edward Leonski, a soldier who murdered three women for his pleasure, this painting deals with similar themes as the painting before. How does anyone come back from war? The arrangement of body parts shows the confusion of everyone involved in war and society's lack of an adequate response.
The Nuremberg Trial by Laura Knight shows the politicized chaos that accompanies the aftermath of war. A multitude of figures crowd the painting, with varying levels of attention and emotional investment.The background demonstrates the structural damages caused, as the interior scene fades into an almost post-apocalyptic landscape.
This realistic painting shows the patrons at a diner along with the waiter listening intently to a radio in the background. There is a sense of intrigue about war. This painting was originally intended to accompany a headline speculating a possible invasion during WWII, and although it was never published, it still accurately portrays a sense of fascination about the war.
In this scene is a unit of soldiers, dubbed "The Kensingtons", suffer through bitter cold and restlessness. One soldier even lies on the ground exhausted. This high level of exhaustion shows on every single person in the painting. This painting appears to call for more respect for the soldiers involved in war, as they struggle through the monotony of suffering. In a sense the artist also portrays his weariness of war.
A line of soldiers stand among dead men scattered throughout the painting. This scene shows the result of a mustard gas attack. Despite the horrors surrounding them, the standing men from a line, hinting that a sense of routine still exists in their reversion to a familiar marching column formation amid the chaos. This sense of routine permeates war. Death is a common occurrence in war just as war is a commons occurrence in society.
Road of Glory by Predrag Peda Milosavljevic shows three layers of how war can be interpreted. The first layer is represented by the trumpeting figures, who show the masquerade of importance attached to war efforts and the fanfare associated with such efforts. The second layer is depicted by the lines of graves, showing the cost of human life and serving as a warning as to the consequences attached to the pursuit of glory. The final layer is topped by the Arc de Triumphe, which serves as a symbol of the achievement of glory and victory in battle and how it is remembered in history.
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