Cicatrix: a scar resulting from formation and contraction of fibrous tissue in a wound; a mark resembling a scar.
Swindon Museum and Art Gallery is the only venue in Britain where a stunning international touring exhibition will be displayed in its entirety. Cicatrix marks the centenary of the end of the Great War and is a must-see event for art lovers and history buffs alike.
Cicatrix features paintings, drawings, films and installations that examine the concept of scarring and the legacy of the Great War - both the physical marks of military activity left behind on Salisbury Plain, and the mental scarring that effects the victims of war.
British artists Henry Burnett, Susan Francis and Prudence Maltby are joined by Commonwealth trio Caro Williams (New Zealand), Catherine Farish (Canada) and Sophie Cape (Australia) for this ground-breaking collaboration.
The three UK artists have also selected pieces for the exhibition from the Swindon museum’s outstanding permanent collection of modern British art. These include works that deal with art and conflict by Augustus John, Frank Auerbach, Graham Sutherland, John Piper, Leon Kossoff and Barbara Howey. All this and entry to Cicatrix is free!
Henry Burnett’s one hundred Wiltshire towers are a real highlight, evoking war memorials, church towers and even minarets. Inside the chalky towers are four hundred miniature sculptures, created using plants, thorns and found objects from Salisbury Plain. The miniatures are inspired by the ‘fumsups’ good luck charms given to departing soldiers during the First World War. The original charms had wooden heads, but Burnett has replaced them with juniper berries from Salisbury Plain.
Susan Francis’s evocative video Experimental Ground captures the eerie atmosphere that shrouds Salisbury Plain where the initial gas attacks of the First World War prompted research which continues to this day in the chemical and biological defence laboratories of Porton Down. The accompanying ‘barbed wire’ sculpture has a luminous quality which contrasts with the earthy juniper berry at its heart.
Prudence Maltby’s forty-seven scar drawings all deal with the trauma of conflict and are framed by prison bars, while Caro Williams’s installations include a hanging First World War poem cast from thin strips of metal and two metal box speakers that play a Morse code version of the same poem.
Catherine Farish’s large scale prints bring to mind Warhol’s silkscreens, though sepia-tinged works like For Crown and Country are populated by images of native American soldiers from the ranks of the Canadian army who trained on Salisbury Plain, not New York artists and hustlers.
Last but not least, Sophie Cape’s visceral painting has the raw energy of the Abstract Expressionists and the violent suggestion of a nuclear explosion; its raw materials including not just impasto but soil from her native Alice Springs, a landscape that rivals Salisbury Plain in its epic desolation.
Following on from landmark shows on the School of London painters and British Art between the wars, Cicatrix cements Swindon Museum and Art Gallery’s growing reputation for cutting-edge exhibitions.
Cicatrix is showing at Swindon Art Museum and Gallery until December 1st, open Tuesday to Saturday 11am – 4.30pm, free entry.