Norwich Castle Museum – photo © The Eye Snapper

Artists’ responses to the First World War form powerful strand
in new exhibition at Norwich Castle

Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery
20 October 2018 – 6 January 2019

Remembrance isn’t only for a day – there’s still time to experience three powerful responses by contemporary artists to the conflict as part of Norwich Castle’s latest exhibition exploring the legacy and impact of the First World War on Norwich and Norfolk.

Norwich-based designer Nick Stone’s Armistice mural is made up of colourised images of hundreds of war memorials from across the County, while Henry Driver has used letters written by his great-uncle describing his experience of going over the top on the Western Front to create a video interactive which allows visitors to follow in his relative’s footsteps. Providing a powerful meditation on the nature of remembrance, acclaimed artist Paddy Hartley’s installation, Papaver Rhoeas, presents a remarkable contemporary reflection on the meaning and memory of the Great War through the symbol of the poppy.

The decision to incorporate contemporary responses into an historical exhibition was a deliberate attempt to emphasise the War’s ongoing imaginative and emotional impact as Exhibition Curator, Kate Thaxton, explains:

“We didn’t want to produce a ‘sepia’ exhibition which keeps visitors at a distance from this central event in our country and County’s history. The exhibition space is deliberately bright and colourful, emphasising that the First World War was experienced in colour by those who lived through it. So many of us have a strong connection to the events of the war through family members who fought in it or who were affected by it. We wanted that continuing resonance to be part of the exhibition, to bring a contemporary perspective into the galleries. It’s an emotional subject which people continue to feel deeply about – we are thrilled to have such thoughtful and thought-provoking art works as part of the show.”

Papaver Rhoeas by Paddy Hartley is a stunning art installation, shown at Norwich Castle for the first time in its entirety. Inspired by the poppy’s status as the symbol of the conflict’s commemoration, and indeed of subsequent conflicts involving the British Armed Forces, Papaver Rhoeas (the Latin name for the Common Poppy) is a series of intricately crafted and botanically accurate poppies created entirely from lambs’ heart tissue and horsehair, presented in custom-made blown glass artillery shell casings. Intended equally as a memorial and a critique of aspects of Remembrance culture, the poppies are designed to decay, fragment and collapse throughout the course of the exhibit. Produced in collaboration with a team of scientists at King’s College London, the work addresses contemporary notions of remembrance and the cultural phenomena of memorialisation. While individual artworks have been exhibited in sites around central London, this is the first time that all 16 pieces will be shown together, and the first time the work has been presented in the East of England.

Nick Stone’s moving mural is made up of photographs of most of the Great War memorials around the County. Nick used a computer programme to sort and colourise the memorial images which together form a mosaic creating the larger picture. The image chosen for this is of Armistice Day 1923, at the Norfolk Regiment Memorial Cottages, Norwich. It is particularly appropriate as the cottages, near Mousehold Heath, were built by the county regiment in 1920 for disabled soldiers and their families and were designed by local architect and former soldier, Cecil Upcher who had served with the 9th Battalion Norfolk Regiment and was wounded in October 1915. The image provides a way to commemorate the sacrifice made by communities across Norfolk in a way that one single image could not have done.

Video games have often been accused of glamorising or glorifying violence. In his interactive, Lost Letters from a Lost Generation, Henry Driver – a recent graduate of the Norwich University of the Arts – challenges our expectations of what a ‘war game’ might present. The ‘game’ is inspired by the experience of Henry’s great-uncle, Reginald Hunt, and his uncensored letter depicting his first engagement of the war. Guided by his words, the audience re-treads his footsteps during the Battle of Mount Sorrel where charges and endless shelling led to nearly 90% of some regiments being killed or injured. His powerful testimony includes the words ‘And then Hell itself opened up’ to describe the experience of shelling. Through innovative use of digital technology, the video game aims to communicate and immerse today’s audiences within the experiences of the First World War as well as subvert people’s perceptions and expectations of the genre, showing how it might be used to meaningfully communicate and explore conflict. It is also a personal tribute to a lost family member – three months after Reginald sent his letter home he was killed in action.

Armistice; Legacy of the Great War in Norfolk, which opened to the public on Saturday 20 October, is a major centenary exhibition exploring the breadth and depth of the impact of the First World War on Norwich and Norfolk. Made possible by money raised by National Lottery players, the exhibition explores the physical impact on the county – coastal defences, changes in agriculture and industrial transformation – alongside the stories of communities and individuals whose lives were transformed by the War. All three contemporary artworks can be seen on show in the exhibition until 6 January 2019.

Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery is part of Norfolk Museums Service (NMS). The Service comprises museums, collections study centres and countywide services relating to archaeology and education. The Service remains a unique partnership between Norfolk County Council and Norfolk’s district councils, funded through council tax, earned income and grants. NMS is now regarded as one of the leaders in the museum sector and in 2017 was successful in its bid for continuing major investment from Arts Council England. In April 2018 NMS became a National Portfolio Organisation for Arts Council England, one of only 45 out of 845 heritage and arts organisations in England to be awarded the highest level of support. www.museums.norfolk.gov.uk @NorfolkMuseums

Paddy Hartley is a London based artist and is Visiting Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Tissue Engineering & Biophotonics King’s College London. He is currently Artist in Residence at the National Maritime Museum London and his work is internationally exhibited, collected and published. His artistic practice investigates themes including memorialisation and remembrance, the origins of WW1 facial reconstruction and those who underwent the surgery. His work has taken the form of biotissue manipulation and assembly, digital photography, digital embroidery, installation, ceramic, and garment assemblage. Much of Paddy’s work is created with the support of the Wellcome Trust. His work has been exhibited at venues throughout the UK, Europe, the USA and Australia and his is work has been acquired for the permanent collections of The Wellcome Collection London, Museum of Arts and Design New York, The National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design Norway and the National Army Museum London. Paddy originates from Dewsbury, West Yorkshire and is a graduate of the University of Wales Institute, Cardiff with a Masters Degree in Sculpture and Ceramics. www.paddyhartley.com

Nick Stone is creative director at Norwich-based design agency Starfish. A writer, designer and photographer he has engaged extensively with the First World War centenary through his own work. His exhibition Vanishing Points: Landscapes of the Western Front is currently showing at St Peter Hungate Church, Norwich. It is the result of five years’ work photographing the legacy landscapes across the Western Front. The exhibition runs from Sunday 11 November to Sunday 25 November. Website: www.invisibleworks.co.uk/

Henry Driver graduated with a distinction in Fine Art from Norwich University of the Arts in 2016. He has shown internationally in Berlin, Melbourne, Copenhagen, Toronto, Sydney and, most recently, in Montreal for MUTEK Festival. His videos have been broadcast in over forty countries. Nationally, Henry has shown at Tate Liverpool, Tate Britain, The Barbican and Whitechapel Gallery. In May 2017, He was selected for alt.barbican, a major new accelerator for innovative artists working at the intersection of art and technology in partnership with The Trampery. Delivered in partnership with MUTEK, the British Council, and the National Theatre’s Immersive Storytelling Studio.
www.henrydriverartist.com/work