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Peace Matters Index
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- War without end
- Under watchfull eyes
- Educating for peace
Well dressing
- What will we be remembering

well dressing
Francisco De Goya is considered to be the first European artist to compose anti-war statements in his extensive series of etchings “The Disasters of War” which, in their ferocious and merciless depictions, still have the ability to shock two hundred years after their completion. In August 2014, down a quiet Derbyshire lane, an emotive art work depicting images of World War 1 was displayed but is no longer in existence. The materials used in making the well dressing “Peace” were traditional; flowers, grasses, leaves and seeds which decayed and died within a week. The fragility and transient nature of this art form acted as a strong metaphor for the lost generation, civilian and military worldwide, who died in the carnage.

War-related art exists in many forms offering various readings and interpretations; as commemoration, protest, propaganda or sometimes an attempt to inspire an ideal state. A group of women who worship at Salem Independent Chapel in Wingerworth created “Peace” and I talked to one of them about their choice of subject and the meaning they intended to convey. The design grew organically from group discussions after the decision to commemorate the beginning of World War 1. Emphasis was to be on the reintroduction and maintenance of peace after the destruction of war rather than a depiction of hostilities. A white dove flies over the scene in a brilliant blue sky of hydrangea petals while white poppies illuminate the sides of the work, all iconic symbols of peace. Originally the soldier was going to be shown in the bleak landscape of trench warfare. However this brutal, brown backcloth was discarded in favour of the man resting quietly in sunshine against a stone cross positioned on grass. His weapon is set down at his side. Purposely, he is not portrayed in combat.

The predominance of white and primary colours adds a lightness of atmosphere and implies optimism. Imagery of war is understated yet threat exists. Sandbags act as signifiers of the trenches: as we look we are aware that beyond them lies mutilation and death. Omission of the killing field does not prevent our realisation of the future of the representative soldier. Horror is expressed by absence, by the empty space of the stone cross which will become the local War Memorial. How many names will be engraved upon it? Vivid red poppies almost engulf the soldier, one of the few plants that would grow in the battle zone. Red poppies for remembrance. There is a play with temporality in this unique work. Past, present and future fuse. But above all soars the white dove, the messenger of hope for a more peaceful world.

Barbara Pattison
Peace Pledge Union, 1 Peace Passage, London N7 0BT. Tel +44 (0)20 7424 9444 contact   |  where to find us