Inspiration and My Art Projects
An insight into some of my art projects…..
Artist in Residence Nene Park Trust Peterborough
This Residency was a year of new and different work focusing on the Seasons in Ferry Meadows Country Park-There are a number of blogs with greater detail on each element here if you would like to know more…
I created a series of paintings which are also available as prints as well as a number of different installations. These included Persephone’s Bed which was placed in different parts of the park in the four seasons, The Three Kings which were felted trees seen across the park in the early winter, Winter Washing of which 2 elements were stolen, The Birds Nests which were large nests of 3 common birds which people could get into and walks with the artist looking at colours and a different way of looking at the nature in the park. I did workshops also painting murals with children, creating a felted blanket of the nature in the park and painting large wooden creatures in the park to play on.
I love being an artist in Residence as it creates connections with a place , the staff and the people who use that place and builds meaningful work that is experienced by many giving a new and different perspective to a familiar place.
I have also been Artist in Residence at Lyveden New Bield National Trust Property near Oundle some years ago.
Floralia was my first installation created on my birthday in the Rag Factory Brick Lane London at an art exhibition in 2015 and has led to many others since then.
World War I -Commemorating Significant Places, People and Events from 1915-1918.
This series of work was all about commemoration the centenary of World War I (WWI)-telling some of the stories of the places, people and events from 1915-1918 in art some of which was focused on links with Peterborough where I am based and some of which was nationally and internationally focused.
WWI is an iconic fascinating part of our history and as the years go by many of the stories are being lost to the new generations that come along. This work is about commemorating some of these events in vibrant , colourful art and is about telling these stories to ensure that they are not lost and that we all learn and connect with these people and places from our past moving into the future.
Some of the work is outlined below. More can be found in my blogs here
2015-THE BLANKET OF POPPIES
An artwork commemorating the life work and execution of Edith Cavell on 12th October 1915.
The biggest work in 2015 was commemorating the life work and execution of Edith Cavell. Edith was a British nurse who helped hundreds of allied soldiers escape from German occupied Brussels and was executed on the 12th October 1915 for her resistance work. Edith Cavell was born near Norwich, and spent time in Peterborough at a school in the Cathedral Precincts where she learnt fluent French. This meant she was able to work in Brussels (following her nurse training and work in London and other places in England) improving the quality of nursing there before WWI began. Knowing the likely consequence of war she chose to remain in Brussels as she thought she would more than ever be needed. This proved to be true! This colourful blanket included as its centre piece, Britain and Belgium with quotes and symbolic depictions of her life before and at her execution created by myself in collaboration with Artisan Felter Eve Marshall. The centre piece is surrounded by stunning beaded and embellished hand made poppies, leaves and stems. The poppies were made by 49 women in workshops reminiscent of WWI knitting circles, each poppy representing a year of Edith Cavell’s life. These strong safe places have led to much sharing of stories and healing and care amongst the women taking part with some incredible stories being shared between strangers. A blanket is often used to care and wrap a person in comfort in times of distress. It is a sign of compassion from one person to another. There would have been little comfort for Edith during her confinement and subsequent execution.To me it seemed very appropriate to comfort and wrap the memory of Edith Cavell and her bravery in a blanket 100 years on. The workshops were inspirational and the strength of women working together with a common purpose was truly fabulous. Following national,regional and local publicity on the BBC,ITV, on radio and in newspapers I was humbled by all those who got in touch hoping to take part and the stories they have all told. Other elements of the project included the creation of: words and poetry in collaboration with Keely Mills poet that were read at the events associated with the blanket: and a film detailing the work of the project.
“I have been humbled and honoured by these women, many of whom were drawn to take part through emotional connections known and unknown to the inspirational story of Edith Cavell. I have also been astonished by how many people know nothing about this amazing woman and her bravery from such an iconic period of history. Her story needed to be told”.
The blanket was laid at events to commemorate the life, work and execution of this inspirational woman in WWI around the centenary of her execution on 12th October 1915.
“It was a very intense, special and emotional experience creating art about a woman you feel connected with, having researched her life and travelled to the very places that she walked and worked in England and Brussels before her execution in 1915. Her story is one that every woman should know!”
2016-THE QUEENSGATE SKY OF POPPIES
Commissioned by Queensgate Shopping Centre Peterborough.
THE SKY OF POPPIES – RAINDROP POPPIES – THE HEAVEN’S OPEN, RAINDROPS ARE FALLING…
“This installation will be a visitor experience within North Square – the visitors will walk and see lots of poppies falling from the “sky” as if they were the souls of those lost looking and reaching out from heaven like raindrops and touching each visitor – signifying the connection that each and every person that was lost had on every person’s life who is still living now. Poppies are about life although being the iconic symbol of remembrance that we know so well and the installation will look more deeply beyond the deaths of so many men to hopefully include how the women lived on without their sons, husbands and fathers.The poppies also represent raindrops that will always fall despite the actions of man over historical time falling into pools of rainwater. Rain of course led to the swathes of mud so synonymous with the Somme.”
Over 1000 poppies were individually handcrafted throughout the run up to the installation and included workshops with Charron Pugsley-Hill and collaborating Artisan Felter, Eve Marshall, to learn a new creative skill and engage with the project.
Each poppy made in felt represented over 1000 casualties on The Somme – over a million casualties from all nationalities combined!
At the beginning of the Battle of the Somme there were military miners that created a series of craters when mining underground and laying explosives underneath the German positions. One of the largest craters is the Lochnagar crater – the largest crater ever made by man. It is almost 91m in diameter and 21m deep. It is now a poignant place of remembrance privately owned by a Briton to remember all people who suffered and lost lives in the war. It has been stated that the sound and feel of the explosions in these craters could be heard in London. Hence the inclusion of willow shells within the piece!
The Sky of Poppies was as much about engaging people in the process through creating poppies, the stories, the multicultural connection and family history as it was about the actual installation itself. This was an amazing opportunity to engage people in an experience of art within Queensgate’s centre. Previous work on Edith Cavell had shown the immense value of including people in this type of project – their involvement has been life changing for many!
The names of all those who died at The Somme from Peterborough were listed around the square with the ethereal poppies hanging from above. This installation opened on 6th July 2016 with an emotional ceremony involving many ex-veterans and remained in place until mid November.4.5 million visitors walked under the installation whilst it was in place with huge numbers of positive comments on Social media.
1916- THE LONELY ANZAC-A MAN FAR FROM HOME.
Sargent Thomas Hunter of the 10th Battalion of the 10th Division of the Australian Army died in Peterborough Hospital on the 31st July 1916 after being shot in the spine at Pozieres on the 25th July as part of The Somme Campaign. Having been badly injured he was being transferred to a hospital in the north for treatment when he deteriorated on the train and was bought off the train to Peterborough Hospital now the museum where he died. He is thought to be the first ANZAC to die on British soil during WWI. The people of Peterborough took him to their hearts following his death raising a huge sum of money to have a full civic and military funeral on the 2nd August with a horse drawn hearse through the streets lined with thousands of residents. It was as if all the emotions for their own sons, fathers and husbands had gone into the grieving for this young man so far from home! His ghost is also reputed to haunt the existing museum. I am booked onto a ‘fright night’ at the museum as part of an official ghost hunt tour in April-The crazy life of an artist! He is buried at Broadway Cemetery a Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery.
The Heritage Lottery Then and Now fund have kindly funded the following project for 1916 through Peterborough City Council.
THE LONELY ANZAC BLANKET
This was the creation of a blanket to commemorate THE LONELY ANZAC that was laid on the war memorial at a service on the 31st July to wrap his memory in the warmth of the people of The City of Peterborough. Please see an image of a rough sketch-the centrepiece is of Peterborough including the museum, the cathedral, his memorial cross and a steam train that bought him to his place of death.
These centrepieces tell his story as THE BLANKET OF POPPIES tells the story of Edith Cavell and her life work and execution. Surrounding the centrepiece are poppies of remembrance with leaves and flags of some of the countries involved in WWI created by people from all different communities/countries in commemoration of this man so far from home! The bringing together of people in the Edith Cavell workshops was incredibly powerful for those involved, changing some of their lives and sharing stories with each other. This was an incredibly important part of the process and a huge amount of effort and focus goes into making this amazing for each participant.
Artist-in-Residence Somme Centenary Weekend.
I also visited the Somme in April 2016 for research and then again over the centenary at the beginning of July where I was hosted by The Great War Society. This residency included the capture of many photographic images and also the creation of THE FLOWERS OF THE SOMME-inspired by the flowers of the land and those present in the cemeteries over the centenary weekend.
1917 saw one of the most iconic battles of World War I at Passchendaele (English spelling ) or Passendale the name now used by the Belgiums today. This battle saw Â 275,000 men under British command and 220,000 Germans lose their lives in the mud of Flanders with 18,000 bodies believed still to be held in the soils of this land.
In the latest of my series of art commemorating the battle of Passendale that began on the 31st July 1917 until November the same year Â I retraced the steps of those men over the land that saw so many die in terrible circumstances in Passendale and the surrounding area. Immersing myself in the place where the events actually occurred allows for total focus on the energies and memories of the land whilst creating the art that will commemorate the event and the people who were there 100 years ago. Passendale has a strong energy that flows through the woods, ridges and fields still today. As you walk you can see the physical evidence still with shrapnel balls, pieces of metal and all manner of things including the characteristics of the land such as young trees where we saw the iconic images of blackened tree stumps where the trees had also been blown to bits by the millions upon millions of shells fired over the years of the war.
Passendale was the third battle of the Ypres Salient ( a bulge in the frontline around the town of Ypres where shelling could occur from 3 sides..) but was the most dreadful of them all if that is possible….Stalemate, mud Â and the scale of the casualties were the common themes of this battle where men and horses drowned in the thick deep gooey mud if they deviated from the tracks and paths that tracked across the area “you needed to watch the colour of the water that lay everywhere-you looked for the light colour and avoided the darker where one step would lead to your death”.
Paintings here take on a relevance and an energy of there own as I captured the emotions and energies emanating from the land and the people as they repeat the stories of their forebears who lived and experienced the time of conflict in their homeland.
Each painting is created over the week that I am there with visits and research in between working in the mornings and evenings..
I am thankful and grateful for the inspiration that the trip gave me to create this painting…in my view possible one of the most significant of those I have created as part of my series commemorating the people, places and events of WWI….. the toughest to create by far!!!
For more of my work on this series and for more information on this painting check out the rest of my WWI blogs on my website www.charronpugsleyhill.com
THE LAMENT OF WOMEN
In 2016 I was incredibly privileged to meet a lady aged 101 who participated in making a poppy for the Installation THE SKY OF POPPIES that was created to commemorate the Battle of the Somme in 1916. Her husband who was 18 years older than her, was gassed at the Somme and died of the consequences after the war but prematurely due to the affects of the gas. She had been without him for many years and we were both in tears as she told me about him. Ever since I have thought of the way women responded to losing so many of the men in their lives during that horrific war. Fathers, sons, brothers, uncles, husbands, friends, men lost to those who loved them….
The lament of women haunted by their eyes
The fatality of their men a generation gone
Fathers, sons, husbands, a brother so many taken ahead of time
leaving broken hearts behind as futures brutally ripped apart
sorrowful hearts left with no solace, a lifetime of lost love
Too many hearts anguished forever with remembrance only and no man to behold.
THE CONSCRIPT is an original painting created to commemorate the millions of horses that died in WWI as well as those taken from civilian life to war. This painting adds the contribution made by horses to the WWI war effort. As a lover and rider of horses from a young age I cannot imagine the trauma of a beloved horse being taken away to be a part of the war machine! Ponies were not generally taken due to the concern for children worried about their pets should they be taken to the war.
Over 8 million horses are believed to have died on all sides in WWI. A huge number of animals taken from civilian life, most ripped from the families that loved them to the horrors of the battlefield. Some had already been military horses and were experienced in the so called glory of the military charge made famous by the charge of the light brigade.
The story of the war horse is now fairly well known thanks to the book, film and stage show War Horse by Michael Morpurgo and I hope that my painting will touch the hearts of the viewer to think about the horrors faced in the years of war by so many horses most of whom would never have experienced anything like the time they spent on the frontline.
Horses and countless mules and donkeys were used mostly for transport of food, munitions, injured men and equipment throughout the war. Millions died from battle wounds from shellfire and guns but most died from the dreadful conditions, lack of food and weather.
The value of horses was such that by 1917 at The Battle of Passchendaele many units were told that the loss of a horse was far worse than the loss of a man because they were more difficult to replace. Men were assigned to care for the horses and there are many images of distressed soldiers with the body of their horse in their arms. The distress of the horses must have been a terrible thing for the soldiers caring for them, their death even worse!!
Other paintings about WWI can be seen in my blogs here
I like having a project on the go—-it gives me a mission, something to focus on and to bring structure to my work. Whether it be big or small……
It can be an emotional time when you reach the end of each project, but all good things come to an end. and then something else will happen and a new direction will open up……and here’s to the next good thing…..whatever that might be…..Inevitably it will be something colourful and happy……with colour love…..