Proposed Sculptures for Ashford
The sculptures ‘War? We’d Rather Play Football’ and ‘War? Catch’, were created to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of World War One (1914 -1918).
World War One was known as the war to end all wars. This war was waged with unprecedented horror on a worldwide scale. However, violent conflicts, to our human shame, have continued uninterrupted since.
John, the artist, pondered long and hard over how to bring World War One from the distant, detached history of the past to a tangible reality of the present. And to also give a relevant anti-war message to the horror of current conflicts.
Initial thoughts for a painting led onto a sculpture as John felt that two-dimensional images of war can be viewed with detachment. A sense of physical reality was sought.
John was struck by The Christmas Truce on the Western Front during World War One and the football matches that were reportedly played between the British and Germans during this short truce. Sport with its universal familiarity and sense of friendly competition, could, the artist believed, be used creatively as a vehicle to convey a message that there is no fair play in War.
WAR? WE’D RATHER PLAY FOOTBALL!
This sculpture has a human perspective and consequent poignancy to it. On the football of the sculpture are the names of casualties from Ashford, Kent, where John, the artist, lives. The entangled mesh of barbed wire, wrapped around and trapping the football symbolises the horror of warfare and how, once involved in war it is hard to extricate oneself from it.
John’s research into the names of the casualties on Ashford’s war memorial, led to the discovery of the addresses of where many of the soldiers had lived in Ashford before and during the War. It was a surprise for John to realise that in every street, close to where he lived, two or more of these casualties had once lived. Knowing that these soldiers had lived in the streets and in houses John sees every day, gave him a sudden reality and connection to this war.
One soldier John discovered, had lived not more than a hundred metres from his own house. The soldier was only seventeen: died September 1915 and has no known grave, just one of 20,000 soldiers commemorated on just one of the numerous memorials to soldiers with no known graves. This soldier went missing in action. The other casualties of Ashford were listed as: ‘died from wounds’, ‘died of disease’, ‘killed in action’, ‘presumed drowned’, etc.
As with all wars, World War One was horrific, the barbed wire of the sculpture gives reference to this. Barbed wire is nasty stuff to handle, even with gloves on John scratched myself and was glad to finish working with it. Barbed wire was ubiquitous on the Western Front. One of the longest trains to pass through Ashford on the way to the Front was the ‘barbed wire train’.
An encompassing connection to this sculpture was the artist’s discovery that the East Kent Regiment (the Buffs) took part in The Christmas Truce in World War One. Many of the soldiers from Ashford were in the Buffs, so some of the soldiers recorded on the football may well have taken part in the truce, and possibly played in a football match. And perhaps too, as with their foe, they would have rather carried on playing football than returned to killing their fellow man.
War is not a game and the English saying, ‘it’s not Cricket’, came into the artist’s mind. He wanted the sculpture to give a message on a personal scale. War really is very nasty. If you embrace it, it will hurt. John felt that the instinctive reflex to catch a ball is strong enough to trigger, for a brief instance, the sensation in your mind that if you catch this ball, the blades will cut and hurt you. A sense of pain is tangibly felt from the stimulus of a visual source.