August 21, 2007

Embedding artists with the troops

In The Observer, Ruaridh Nicoll reports:"Peter Howson never took to the role of official war artist. The Glasgow-based painter had such a grim time during his trips to Bosnia in 1993 that he turned to drink, drugs and, latterly, religion. He created paintings of such brutality that even the hardened curators at the Imperial War Museum flinched. The army also struggled. An officer who showed him a shattered body in a shelled bus was frustrated when he failed to draw. Complaints were raised when he revealed scenes he had not witnessed; one of a woman with her head in a toilet being raped. It damaged his reputation....Steve McQueen, the Turner winner who has held the position since 2003, has been spitting about the army's refusal to help him. 'For the military you are just a token artist,' he told one interviewer. 'You're in the way.' After a brief, frustrating trip to Basra early on - 'I knew I'd be embedded with the troops, but I didn't imagine that meant I'd virtually have to stay in bed' - he has been barred from returning. The reason given is that it's too dangerous." Read more.