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THE HERALD FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 16 2016


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‘Remembering the Great War’ ‘REMEMBERING THE


GREAT WAR’, an exhibition of paintings, drawings and prints by The Picturemakers, will be in the Morlan Centre in Queen’s Road, Aberystwyth, until October 21. The exhibition is included in


the First World War Centenary Partnership’s list of events organised by The Imperial War Museum and Culture24. With free admission, this moving exhibition commemorates the centenary of the ‘Great War’, also called the First World War (WW1) or, ironic as that now seems, the War to End All Wars. Lest we forget, or in case Facebook


moderators haven’t even heard of it, the First World War claimed the lives of 9,720,450 military personnel and 8,865,650 civilians, while the military wounded totalled 19,769,102. Records of civilian wounded and the numbers of animals slaughtered are impossible to estimate from incomplete records. The number of soldiers from the Allied Countries killed or wounded totalled 18.5 million and there were 12.24 million military deaths on the side of the Central Powers. Meanwhile, civilian deaths in the


Central Power nations, 5.2 million, exceeded Allied civilian casualties of 3.7 million. It is generally accepted that the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand at Sarajevo on June 28, 1914 sparked this catastrophic conflict. The debate about the rivalries between the imperial powers that fuelled the conflagration continue to rage among historians and others to this day, however. And there is no consensus on the morality of the war, on which side may have been in the right. Certainly, so very many ‘good guys’ and innocent people died and were injured on all sides.


Dilwyn Roberts: ‘Black Cloud’ ‘Returning Home Safely’: Greteli Morton


doom over a field which could either be set for battle or lie dormant afterwards. The cloud is Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘ghastly grim and ancient Raven’. The indistinct landscape is traversed by a river running into a grey sea or lake. The absence of people or other creatures in the picture conjures all the casualties of the war more vividly than any pile of bodies, mass grave or stark statistic.


THE POEMS The exhibition was originally


suggested by the Curator of The Radnorshire Museum. First on show at the Radnorshire


Museum in Llandrindod, ‘Remembering the Great War’ received critical approval and by request moved on to the Wyeside Arts Centre in Builth before coming to the Morlan. Interpretation of the subject matter was left completely to individual artists. Many works were inspired by the war poetry that gave witness to this terrible, world changing event. Selected poems are displayed below art works and add to the poignancy of the exhibition. A number of poems are by the


Kelvin Mason Aberystwyth Reporter kelvin.mason@herald.email


THE PICTURES AND THE PICTUREMAKERS


Curated by Karl Sylvester and Patrick


Owen, ‘Remembering the Great War’ features artworks by The Picturemakers, a collective of visual artists working in mid-Wales (www.thepicturemakers. co.uk). The collective grew out of an ‘art discussion group’ which was conceived by a number of people who had attended Professor Alistair Crawford’s courses in Art and Art History, which were offered by Aberystwyth University’s Life Long


Learning department. With a limit of fifteen members. The Picturemakers have mounted over thirty exhibitions since their foundation in 2006. ‘Remembering the Great War’


features pictures by Greteli Morton from Penrhyncoch, Dilwyn Roberts from Llanbadarn Fawr, Shelley Upton from Felinfach (Lampeter), and Dot Thomas from Tre’r-ddol. The other artists exhibiting - Rosemary Fahimi, Gordon Miles, Patrick Owen and Karl Sylvester - are all from Powys. Infamously, the bloody trench warfare


of the First World War employed the terrible modern technologies of machine guns, tanks, flame throwers, poison gas and barbed wire. These technologies or


their effects and aftermath feature in a number ofpaintings in the exhibition. In Patrick Owen’s ‘Darkness’ (oil on canvas) a line of men blinded by a poison gas attack hold onto each other’s shoulders as they stand single-file, presumably awaiting what poor treatment is available. Behind the men, a pall of yellowish smoke suggests perhaps mustard gas. Delivered in artillery shells, mustard gas settled on the ground and remained active for days or weeks, depending on weather conditions. It made skin blister, attacked the bronchial system and caused internal bleeding, as well as severely irritating the eyes. Although the men in ‘Darkness’ are British or Allied troops, both sides in the First World War used poison gas even though it violated conventions defining it as a war crime. Owen’s line of men exude a tangible futility and exhaustion, senses that permeates other pictures in the exhibition too. ‘Terrible waste’, a wood engraving


by Rosemary Fahimi, reprises a tragic archetype of the First World War: The dead soldier draped over coils of barbed wire, his rifle gone. Here the wire reaches our organically to envelop the soldier, like the tendrils of a plant, like briars, seeking to reclaim his body for the Earth. In oil on canvas, the same artist’s ‘Exhaustion’ shows soldiers and horses resting together, some men sprawled over a wagon or gun carriages. The central figure, an Allied Officer, reclines shoulder to shoulder with a horse that looks deadbeat, its nut-brown back lathered with the white efflorescence of sweat. In the background, another horse is asleep on its feet, untended. For me, the painting that epitomised


the exhibition was Dilwyn Roberts’ ‘Black Cloud’. Obscuring the sun, the eponymous black cloud hovers like a harbinger of


quintessential poet of the First World War Wilfred Owen, including ‘Dulce Et Decorum Est’ and ‘Anthem For Doomed Youth’: ‘What passing-bells for these who die as cattle? / Only the monstrous anger of the guns / Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle’. As well as work by Owen’s mentor


Siegfried Sassoon, there is one poem by William Butler Yates, ‘An Irish Airman Foresees His Death’, that is perfectly accompanied by a Greteli Morton painting, though its title, ‘’Returning home safely’, seems at odds with the verse. Rendered in acrylic on canvas, Morton’s painting is itself a visual incongruity of warfare. A bi-plane, a British Sopwith Camel, flies over a rural idyll of fields, ploughed and planted, brown earth, green grass and an umber suggestive of ripening corn. We see the plane and the fields from above. It is a landscape of small farms in a hilly area, with fields necessarily delineated to follow the natural contours of the land. You can almost hear the drone of the aeroplane’s engines, follow its slow passage over the farmland, the copses of trees… Then, hitting the viewer right


between the eyes, Morten has numbered the plane 13. This number, so strongly associated


with bad luck, makes us fear the painting’s title and the idyllic moment captured are misleading. Powered flight was in its infancy in the First World War. The Wright brothers had made their first legendary manned flight in 1903, just 11 years before the war began. Although by 1918 air supremacy had played a significant part in the outcome of the war, the cost in pilots’ lives was desperately high. 14,000 Allied pilots perished during the war, with more than half of those fatalities occurring in training. In 1915, the average life expectancy for an Allied pilot was just 11 days. Beneath Morton’s painting Yeats’ existentialist


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