Monday, 19 May 2014

Pieces for Peace 14 - 18

Pieces for Peace 14 - 18 is an exhibition which will be held in Ypres, Belgium later in the year to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I.  Calligraphy and Books, both traditional and contemporary will be shown, and the measurements for all work has been set symbolically at 14 x 18 cm.

There will be a little group of books from Queensland, as SusanFiona and Barry have made books which you can see on their blogs.  The sections offered to binders contained war poems in different languages.  I wanted to make my book uniquely Australian and decided to make a standard codex containing quotes from war diaries and excerpts of poetry written by the men who were there serving in the AIF in France and Belgium, and who were writing about the horrible and shocking realities of what they were seeing and experiencing.  I will probably make a different version with the material as a more visual artists book at a later date.  

I've already made two other books in the past specifically about the first World War - Was it Needless Death (1993) and Red Lips are not so Red (2007).  Like the other two this one addresses the horrors of that war, and I used the Latin saying - Si vis pacem, para bellum  (Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus, De Re Militari) which means If you seek peace, prepare for war as  my starting point and the theme for the book.  It is a very painful thing to accept that so many of our men died whilst fighting there, far from their homeland, so peace could be achieved.

The text appears on a full page with preceding smaller page which shows an illustration and allows the viewer to read a few key words of the text that follows.

I have visited the battlefields of France and Belgium a few times to see the sites of the battles that members of my family fought in - Mouquet Farm, Messines Ridge, Villers Bretonneux, Menin Road and Passchendaele, so I was able to use my photos in the book. The colour and light of the photos were manipulated to a dark, brown, unreal and deathly landscape to which I have added drawings of white crosses as symbols of those killed - the beautiful European landscape I photographed is once again transformed into a battlefield/graveyard. The khaki/brown colour of the pages gives the book the muddy look of the battlefields and trenches.

The book is about the price that had to be paid for peace.

I used some words of Edward (Vance) Palmer, 14th Battalion AIF, to address the effects on the returned soldiers who were expected to get over it and return to normal life in days long before there was any understanding about post-traumatic stress.

The pages are bound in a French Simplified Binding with a leather spine and onlaid leather on the cover.  I have tooled white foil crosses onto the leather 'landscape' turning it into a graveyard.


susan bowers said...

This is very moving Helen ... very poignant. On reading what you had to say what struck me most was that these were many of your photographs taken of he beautiful countryside when you visited, and yet you have made them look war ravaged - just as years ago the war itself would have ravaged that gorgeous landscape. I found that quite eerie.

Fiona Dempster said...

Helen - it looks wonderful. Like Susan I had the sense of haunting about the landscape, and the dark images of it; but there is warmth throughout the book as well. A wonderful piece of remembering and honouring.

Jack Oudyn said...

A truly beautifully made, moving book. It is even more so when seen in reality. The images complement the text wonderfully in a very peaceful way. I was almost moved to tears.

Helen M said...

I really appreciate your comments, Susan, Fiona and Jack as this is a meaningful book for me.

Marleen Derweduwen said...

Het boek is gewoonweg 'schitterend'.
Ik kijk verlangend uit naar de opening van de tentoonstelling om het boek in het echt te zien.

Helen M said...

It's great to receive a comment from someone in Belgium Marleen - I had to look up a translation of your lovely comment in Flemish - thank you so much. Do you have a book in the exhibition too?

Marleen Derweduwen said...

Ik heb vandaag alles afgewerkt om het boek te kunnen afgeven.
Het is niet zo kunstvol als dat van jou maar ik ben toch blij met mijn deelname.
In de cataloog zullen we elkaars werk kunnen bekijken en bewonderen:)
Ook de andere Australische deelnames zijn meer dan de moeite!

Helen M said...

For those of us who can't get there it will be great to be able to see the exhibition through the catalogue when it finally arrives here in Australia. I'll be looking for your work Marleen.