Lest we forget

For Those In Peril

For Those In Peril..

829 Merchant Seamen from 104 ships, and 1,944 Royal Navy personnel from 18 ships lost their lives on Arctic Convoy duty. In protecting the convoys, the RN sank 5 surface ships, 31 submarines and many, many aircraft. Countless more were pulled from the water, from their ships, and from boats and islands, by the RN and the Convoy Rescue Ship Service. Rescuing sailors meant stopping the ship, leaving it wide open to u-boat or air attack.  Referencing the scrambling nets that went over a ships side, and with details of the 18 ships lost, this is my homage to the RN and Convoy Rescue Ships Service.

The sculpture is one of 25 works in a series of artworks both commemorating and offering homage to the work of the men and women of the mercantile marine during the arctic convoys of 1941-45. The works were exhibited as an audio-visual sequential narrative between June 23rd and July 12th 2017 at Gage Gallery in Sheffield. I am currently in talks to restage the exhibition at a different venue in the New Year.

Central to the exhibition were a series of paintings and sculptures, presented as a journey through the eyes of an ordinary merchant seaman engaged in the Arctic Convoy runs of 1941-45. The audience were invited to take the part of the sailor, and immerse themselves in the journey through the artworks and the ambient audio soundscape that accompanied them.

Read more about the exhibition here

 

 

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For Those In Peril.. Book now available

 

They’ve arrived 🙂 Very happy to say that the first print run of the book of my last exhibition has now arrived. A5, 200gsm silk finish paper, hardcover, casebound, 60 pages with 27 pictures. I’m really happy with the result, they look and feel like the quality production I hoped they’d be.

The book includes images of all paintings and sculptures in the show, a gallery shot, and all the text that accompanied the artworks at the show (short ‘excerpts from letters home’ that serve as explanation) plus a short history of convoy PQ17 and the overall background to the arctic convoys operations.

The first 50 will be signed and numbered, and they are available direct from me, at £15.00 plus £2.50 postage and packing (UK only first class untracked). For international orders please contact me for a quote.

You can order copies by email. I accept paypal payments and will email you back a link to follow for payment.

(jlpaw@blueyonder.co.uk)

 

 

The Troubadour’s tale

Desperate Measures

Desperate Measures

July 4th 1942, and Arctic Convoy PQ17 is under heavy attack by Torpedo Bombers flown from Luftwaffe air bases in Norway and Finland. The Navarino has already been abandoned and wallows ablaze in the water. The convoy is 240 miles east of Bear Island, and 800 miles still to go.

On the Panamanian registered freighter Troubador concern about a shortage of ammunition for the ships US Navy installed (and partially manned) defences has resulted in an inventive solution. On her deck she carries 3 M3 light tanks. These are armed with 37mm quick firing M5 guns, and the Troubadour’s hold contains armour piercing ammunition with tracer rounds, necessary against the well protected Heinkel HE-111 bombers the convoy faced. The decision was taken to break the seals on two tanks and the ammunition crates. 2 two man crews were assigned to man two of the tanks, and in this unusual manner she protected herself effectively enough to be one of the 11 merchant ships (of 36) that managed to get to Murmansk. Indeed, the Royal Navy were impressed enough by the approach as to recommend it to other ships in the convoy.

One of the more unusual tales of the Sea, it struck me in researching the story of the Arctic Convoys for my forthcoming exhibition just how inventive people are in the face of adversity. For merchant seamen and women, on their poorly (if at all) armed, and completely unarmoured ships the psychological impact of the unrelenting attacks of bombers and U-boats must have been huge. Human instinct tends to the fight or flight, and at 8 knots no ship can outrun an aircraft. It is admirable that in such circumstances creativity rather than panic rules, and I have titled the painting Desperate Measures in recognition of this.

Flier

 

 

For those in peril..

Flier

My first solo show in a gallery since 2014, and my most ambitous project yet. For those in peril.. will include 18 paintings, 4 sculptures and an ambient audio backing, and will take the viewer on a journey from Liverpool to Murmansk and back, seeking to evoke a sense of what it was like to sail on the Arctic Convoy runs of 1941-45 as an ordinary merchant seaman on a general cargo vessel.

The Exhibition is timed to coincide with the 75th anniversary of the sailing of the most famous convoy, PQ17. Central to the exhibition will be a series of paintings presenting the journey through the eyes of an ordinary merchant seaman engaged in the Arctic Convoy runs of 1941-45. The sailor will not be identified in order to avoid over personalising an endeavour that more than 66,000 sailors participated in, with over 3,000 losing their lives as a result. However, the journey depicted will be that of the SS Navarino, a 4,841 tonne general cargo ship typical of the British merchant fleet at the time, and sunk from the middle of PQ17 on the 4th July 1942. Whilst the magnificent efforts of the Royal Navy will not be ignored, the exhibition is intended as an homage to the work of (extra)ordinary civilians who, on unarmoured and largely unarmed merchant ships, ensured that the essential equipment to keep the Russian front supplied kept flowing in one of the most important and least known theatres of the Second World War.

I have planned the exhibition as an installation constructed from discrete forms. In so doing I hope to explore the possibilities of overcoming the limitations of narrative art through the chronological arrangement of journey pieces, and the careful placing of ambient works. The painting I have chosen for the flier is Starshell Nights, which will be placed roughly at the midpoint of the journey, and can be seen without text below.

Starshell Nights

Starshell Nights

All are welcome to the opening event, if you can’t make that day the show will run for three weeks, and it would be lovely to greet you there 🙂

 

 

Prelude

Prelude

Prelude

2 days out of Hvalfjord, weather and visibility worsening. The SS Navarino highlighted by the evening light, struggling against the rising seas. An eerie beauty hides the cold, spray freezing to razor shards of ice, driven by the relentless wind.

Another development piece for my next show, getting close now (7 weeks to go 🙂 ) and I’m really looking forward to it.

Alpha

Alpha

Alpha

Development work on my forthcoming exhibition themed on the Arctic Convoys of 1941-1945 continues. Alpha hints at the threat from German surface raiders to the convoys and references the Tirpitz, who’s short sortie on July 3rd 1942 was enough to cause the admiralty to order the convoy to scatter and the escort to turn back.

Quite pleased with the looser feel to this piece, in developing work for the exhibition I am constantly trying to balance the narrative component (which leans towards representation) and my more expressive style, without doing a Turner 🙂 The exhibition will use paintings, sculpture and audio effects to create an installation comprised of discrete stand alone works that combine to convey a diachronic experience – a tall order as the elements are all synchronous but I’m fascinated by the possibilities, in particular of challenging the traditional concept of an exhibition.

I shall be showing a much larger version of Alpha in the show, where I hope it’s looming presence will contribute a sense of unease to the viewers. The show, titled For Those In Peril, is by way of an homage to the thousands of merchant navy seamen and women who risked and gave their lives to maintain the defence of the USSR, and the members of the Navies of Britain, Russia and America who defended them, in possibly the most important and least regarded action of the fight against fascism. It opens on June 23rd, at Gage Gallery, Sheffield UK, and will run until July 12th, hope you can join me there 🙂

 

 

Once, we took a stand

june-26th-heavy-weather

June 26th Heavy Weather

On July 4th 1942 a British merchant ship was sunk near Spitzbergen, torpedoed by german bombers. She was the SS Navarino, and was just one of 21 ships that were sunk on convoy activities in the North Sea that day. In total 84 merchant ships and 18 warships were lost on Arctic Concoy duty, and 2,773 sailors lost their lives as a result. The Navarino was carrying goods to Russia, goods that would help the Russians defeat the Nazi’s on the Eastern front, and ultimately ensure that the scourge of Facism sweeping Europe would be defeated.

Many ordinary people came together to ensure that victory, people from all countries, races, ethnicities and religons. They fought, and died, to preserve the freedom of people from totalitarianism,  and when the war was over determined that the Europe they had defended would not be the same. In the UK a post war consensus of high taxation, regulation and a strong welfare state emerged, working people were not prepared to accept the old order that had immiserated them throughout the industrial revolution. In a Europe sickened by the genocidal idealogy of Fascism after seeing the evidence of the Holocaust new constitutions were adopted that, together with the establishment of the European Court of Human Rights, enshrined an explicit set of civil and political rights for all persons within the jurisdiction of its member states, whether those individuals are aliens, refugees, stateless persons, or citizens.

Why the history lesson? Because now, once again, we have the spectre of a people demonised, of people caught up in wars not of their making being turned away from safety and succour because of where they come from. Of people already granted right to remain being refused reentry to the US after going on holiday, barred from their homes, jobs, families and pets. Donald Trump’s Muslim ban makes no sense. It has nothing to do with the war on terror, the countries of origin of the people affected are not the ones the 9/11 bombers came from, and the exclusion from the ban of countries that Trump has business interests in, countries that are major buyers of US arms, simply highlights his hypocrisy.

The ban is and can only be designed to ensure that the fear of terrorism instilled in ordinary decent people is converted to hatred. That the economic misery of the workng class suffering the loss of income and ultimately work as a result of the market logic of neo-liberalism is directed away from capitalism. This is a coldly calculated action to recreate the anti-Jew hysteria of 1930’s Germany, and it is heartening to see how much resistance there is to it in the US, and how much condemnation and expressions of solidarity are coming from ordinary working people in the States, and worldwide.

In the UK our prime minister refused to condem the ban, and has only suggested that she would ‘make representations’ if British citizens were affected. In a probably inadvertent mirror of Chamberlain’s statement in 1939 (The way Germany treats Jews is up to Germany, it has nothing to do with Britain) she commented through a spokesperson “Immigration policy in the United States is a matter for the government of the United States, just the same as immigration policy for this country should be set by our government”    after going on to add that she disagreed with the ban. Wooh, strong words Theresa 😦

Faced with a world going to hell increasingly rapidly, and unable to escape or ignore the parallels with the rise of Nazi Germany, a rise fuelled by the unwillingness of people to challenge a hate fuelled idealogy until it was to late, my only choice as an artist is to speak out. Art itself cannot change anything, I am not so naive as to belive that, but I do believe that art can highlight the need for change, can serve as the mirror through which others can see a different view of the world. The convoy series shows a world in which people came together, and died together, to fight hatred, to preserve their freedom to do as they wished in so far as that did not affect anybody else’s right to do the same. It’s that spirit, and the one that saw the rise of the post-war consensus, that we need right now.