I went to see this exhibition at Bristol Cathedral on Remembrance Sunday. The exhibition contains 19240 figures, each one wrapped in a hand-stitched shroud, and representing an individual fatality that occurred on the first day of the Battle of the Somme in 1916.
The rows of figures are such an emotional sight, especially when viewed during a roll call of names from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. The knowledge that each name corresponds to a figure, and that whilst viewing the exhibition, you will only hear a fraction of those names, is very sobering indeed. In fact, I was surprised by the poignancy I felt when reviewing the photographs even a couple of weeks later.
The artist’s work has obviously been compared to the poppies that were displayed at the Tower of London in 2014. His thoughts are as follows:
“We have had the poppies at the Tower of London, which was a great thing, but the individual was lost in that sea of colour…I wanted to make people understand the number is made up of individual people.” — Rob Heard (BBC News, 2016)
Having seen the shrouds for myself, I can only agree with him, that the great success of his work is that it makes people think of the individuals.
BBC News (2016). Battle of the Somme: First day’s dead marked with 19,240 figurines [online]. Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-devon-36644373. Accessed on 28/11/2016.