Created in Conflict: British Soldier Art from Crimean War to TodayAt Compton Verney Art Gallery & Park, 17 March – 10 June 2018

Research output: Non-textual formExhibition

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The exhibition will showcase the incredible diversity, resourcefulness and beauty of art produced in war through a wide range of works, including a tiny match-box house made by a soldier in the trenches during the WWI, full-scale military quilts and images depicting the arrival of parcels from home. In addition, we hope to show intricate objects produced by Prisoners of War in exchange for food and stunning works made by convalescing personnel who have developed new skills such as toy making. Art made by or about military personnel could also be used for propagandistic purposes, and this exhibition considers the unsettling effects of such objects, which can make us feel both better and worse about war. The exhibition will reveal previously hidden histories of military making, challenge perceptions about military masculinity, and expand our ideas about feeling in wartime.As part of the exhibition, the following works made by Christopher McHugh will be displayed. 1. Swift and Bold JugPorcelain, ceramic decals, pink lustre, mixed media19cm x 17cm x 14cm (approx.)This work speaks to a long tradition of trench art, recalling inscribed WW1 shell case vases and jugs. This will be positioned alongside a WW1 jug and a WW2 tankard made from weaponry, this jug's ceramic form signalling fragility and inviting a rethinking of the material of soldier art, with which the exhibition is concerned throughout. Its incorporation of soldiers’ tattoo designs allows us to recognise this very significant form of contemporary soldier art, and, as a composite of many soldiers experiences, the jug also resonates with the many works of patchwork and bricolage featured in the exhibition. The tattoos featured visualise profound feelings of love and loss. As McHugh puts it: 'My ‘tattooed’ jugs attempt to preserve the embodied shrines of the soldiers in a publicly accessible medium which, it is hoped, will endure longer than the flesh and carry these expressions of affection into the future.’ The Swift and Bold Jug is at the heart of the exhibition’s thinking about soldier feeling, tactile and emotional, and how feeling is expressed in art.2. Rifleman Hiles’ IED BrushCeramicPorcelain, glaze, pink lustre, decals, mixed media21cm x 7cm x 4cm (approx.)This ceramic transformation of Rifleman Hiles’ IED brush is an important part of the exhibition’s exploration of customisation and personalisation of kit in theatre. Like some of the other adapted domestic objects featured it combines the mundane with the extraordinary, marking Hiles’ risk and survival in a strikingly simple way. This work will be displayed with background information about its significance for Hiles (and ideally also with his own brush) and about McHugh’s ceramic interpretation and preservation of the object, which emphasises the artistry in both Hiles’ adaptations and his delicate work defusing explosives. Soldiers in the focus group for this exhibition saw IED clearance as a particular art in itself and were interested in the ways the brush raises questions about what counts as soldier art.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 17 Mar 2018
EventCreated in Conflict: British Soldier Art from Crimean War to Today - Compton Verney Art Gallery & Park, 17 March – 10 June 2018 / Compton Verney Art Gallery & Park
Duration: 17 Mar 201810 Jun 2018

Bibliographical note

Reference text: McHugh, Christopher. 2016. Clay and commemoration: materializing the somatic experience of warfare through ceramic practice, Critical Military Studies Vol. 3 , Iss. 1,2017
Outputmediatype: Ceramic works, Catalogue


  • Compton Verney
  • soldier
  • art
  • trench art
  • Crimea
  • Afghanistan
  • IED
  • commemoration


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