Modern British Art by John Powell: War Landscape, Britain 1942 |




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John Powell:
War Landscape, Britain 1942

Framed (ref: 3600)


Oil on canvas

24 x 36 in. (61 x 91.4 cm.)

Tags: landscape war World War II Paintings by British Artists

Exhibited: WW2 - War Pictures by British Artists, Morley College London, 28 October -23 November 2016, cat 75. 

Literature: WW2 - War Pictures by British Artists, Edited by Sacha Llewellyn & Paul Liss, July 2016, cat 75, page 113, 114-115.

"Dear Mr. James,
In response to your telephone call I am putting together a few facts and some thoughts about the painting 'Corps de Sacks'. Recalling exactly when John Stocks called on me and took the piece has eluded me. It must have been around the middle of the eighties. David Cohen's acquisition of the work is documented. Enclosed is a copy of my reply to his enquiring letter and identifying colour transparency. Note that, while my letter confirms 1942 as the date for the subtitle, the making of the painting spanned from 1942 to 1945. The reluctance of painters to make statements about their work, I share. Such explanations tend to limit the possible range of meanings of a work. Therefore, I approach writing about 'Corps de Sacks' with temerity. Pure abstract, painterly interest in juxtaposing shapes, patterns and colour was the initial 'conscious' motivation of the work, leading to a composition similar in structure to that of a musical composition. In contrast, in this instance, the content came probably from the subconscious, but it is inseperable from purely aesthetic matters. While a student, I painted a hospital figure composition. It drew from my professor the comment that the painted image of a sick person should not make the observer feel sick. The 'message' of 'Corps de Sacks', by implication, presents the grim reality of war, without the explicit violence which is currently fashionable in all the media. Anguish may be felt following from the free ranging imagination of the observer. In a wider sense the piece is a metaphor for man's inhumanity to man. The word man often equates with evil and wickedness. Men's words are frequently piously utopian, but secretly men seek advantage over their fellows. The 'Corps', therefore, has emblematic content. The 'sacks' with their 'domino like' markings indicating army training, a chance screening, at reserve camp, set me aside to be a technical instructor in radar ,while most of my comrades went to Cyprus and were lost. While being privileged to use my intelligence towards the war effort, I never lost awareness that all was concerned with killing.

Perhaps I should add a few comments about the tinted drawing 'The Artist's Billet', which was exhibited at King Street Galleries, London, in November 1992. In the exhibition catalogue the drawing as stated to be in charcoal and water colour, but pencil was used, not charcoal. The setting a room in requisitioned premises in Islington, ondon. The drawing was made it 1943, but the incident which provided its subject occurred almost two years earlier. Civilian billets, despite their total lack of furniture, with beds of mattress 'biscuits' on the floor, were preferable to Nissen hut barrack rooms. Many privations were preferred to endurance of the communal odour from too many men in a confined space. At the time of the incident $ had been posted to attend Northampton Polytechnic, London, for the lengthy (3 months) first part of my radar course. The model for the very tall figure featured in the drawing was also a student on the course.

I hope that the foregoing information and comments will satisfy your requirements, though selection and editing may be necessary to produce your exact needs. Should you be visiting West Sussex and have time and inclination to call and see work in my studio, please phone in advance and I will give you route directions.
Yours sincerely,
John Powell"

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