Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Figure 11 - The Tomb

It is ages since I posted anything myself but I have been following the blogs of my favourite sites - like those of David, Haidee-Jo and Valerie - through the summer.

The reason I have not blogged a lot is because I have been building a mini installation for the Armed Forces Art Soc's new contemporary show in London at the Mall Galleries this August.  It will be run alongside our regular show and three of us are organising and running it, so it has been a lot of work. 

I think it will be worth it as we are now able to include many of our artists who find it difficult to get their work into our normal show, either because they are working in 'forbidden' media (photography for instance) or because the style and content of their work is difficult to place in our regular show.

When we looked at what might be submitted we found that there was a shortage of 3-D work so muggins here volunteered to come up with something based on Figure 11 (I will explain that later!).  From 8 basic concepts I chose the tomb idea as being the most practical.  It has taken me nearly 23 hours of work (so about plein air 12 paintings worth!) to finish it, stretched my carpentry skills to the limit and forced me to remember some of the skills I had in scene-painting for amateur plays years ago.

Here is Figure 11:

He is about 5 feet high and is used all over the world as a military target.  Anyone in the Western Hemisphere who has served in their armed forces will recognise him instantly because we have all shot at him.

My concept involved the idea that the ubiquitous Figure 11 represents some sort of universal enemy and that this status is not only undeserved but has a long history.  The image was created soon after WWII and I would like to be able to acknowledge the copyright but it is claimed by more than one agency including the Crown. 

I imagine that the essence of the image is in fact 4th Century and that the concept of Figure 11 'hostis humani generis' goes back at least as far as the end of the Etruscan era in central Italy (circa 300BC).

The main piece is a limestone tomb lid, largely intact, with a C4th inscription in Latin but using the Ogham alphabet (C4th Irish).  This image is supposedly underneath the Victorian tomb brass that is in the 'knight's pose' but is very definitely Figure 11. 

The lid also carries a quote from Aneirin's "Y Gododdin''  of C6th in old Brythonic language but using New Roman Cursive with the addition of a 'y' (for which there is no latin symbol). 

Separate artefacts include a supposedly 300BC stone plaque inscribed on boustrophedon form with 'hic iacet instar undecim hostis quondam hostisque futurus', which is a sort of forerunner of the better-known inscription that is supposedly on Arthur's grave - ie 'here lies Arthur the once and future king'.  Also, I have produced a separate replica of the Ogham inscription, now supposedly covered by the Victorian tomb brass.  Various other bits and pieces contribute to the 'archaeological museum' feel.

The tomb brass contains shot holes, lit from within the space below the lid by orange-red LED lights.  We have tried arrows, rods, even red roses in the shot holes but they spoil the continuity of the image.

In the next posts about Figure 11 I will include some pictures of the construction.

Meanwhile a plug for the show.  It is on from Tue 28 Aug until Sat 1 Sep 10am to 5pm and entrance is FREE.  From Trafalgar Square walk through Admiralty Arch (no cars because of the Para Olympics), past the Marines memorial and it is the next large building on your right.

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