The catastrophe of war affects not only humans but wildlife also. During war, landscapes are destroyed. Within every square foot of a landscape there is some form of life. Every shell that exploded in the fields of Flanders in WWI, every mortar detonated in the forests of the Ardennes during the Battle of the Bulge, had a direct impact on the eco-system within each area. The insects, the small mammal populations, the birds, the large mammal populations – the blind fear inflicted upon them is yet another tragedy of war.
Where do the animals go? Many of them are killed as their habitats are destroyed. Others evacuate the area. It is a subject that is rarely discussed as the impingement of war on humans takes precedence.
I wanted to make a memorial to all the animals that have been affected and will continue to be affected during each outbreak of war. Creating a halcyon forest scene of peace and tranquility, my drawing features an exquisite bisque ‘Lying Stag’ by Nymphenburg, Germany, designed by August Göhring in 1939. Deer are the epitome of elegance and exude an aura of serenity – but their fine, slender features betray the fragility not only of their own bodies that can so easily be broken but echo the delicacy of the ecosystems they inhabit. The fragility of porcelain symbolises the fracturable nature of ecosystems, so easily shattered.
I decided to draw the porcelain stag as if it were made of ethereal Uranium glass, not only representing the green of forests but also the colour of the Emerald City in the film ‘The Wizard of Oz’, 1939, thus creating a halo of wonderment as we encounter the stag lying amongst the beauty of a pristine forest. The Emerald City seems a place of beauty and promise like the forest in the drawing, but it is an illusion masking the true reality of life behind the green walls, as war creeps ever closer to the hooves of the restful stag. A carved section of my Grandmother’s dressing table, circa 1940 reflects the harmonious relationship man is capable of having with forests, managing them properly so that sustainable wood is used for the making of furniture and carving of objects.
But a drawing of a still from the film ‘A Prophet’, 2009, Jacques Audiard of a herd of deer running down a road, caught in the headlights of a car before the film continues to show one of the deer brutally run over, represents the onslaught of war.
With crisis looming in Ukraine, war is never far from any of us. It is in our nature to feud with one another. One twitchy pull of the trigger on a gun can release the bullet that sparks the conflagration of war. The consequences affect every living organism that encounters the fallout from that one bullet.
As I wrote the words above I happened to look up at the television and saw the images caught in my photograph of the Sky News bulletin about the Ukraine crisis and watched as a Russian soldier fired into the air at unarmed Ukrainian soldiers as they approached to try and negotiate with the Russians. It seemed a strange and poignant co-incidence.