A Graphic War

Image: Lest we forget the sacrifices of women during the war / Riza

Britannia was my first encounter with 'A Graphic War' trail. Despite her being installed on a sky walk slightly away from the crowds, She is standing tall. On a tank. A gold shell balanced on one hand, her other limb, torn.
Still an authoritative and imposing installation representing munition workers of Barnbow. Where as the war progressed, more than 90% of its workforce were local women and girls. Women kept the home front moving, they were postal workers, tram drivers, chemists and hard labourers.
As I walked away from Britannia, I felt disappointed that a sculpture serving as a reminder of the sacrifices made by women had been cast to a little used corridor in a giant shopping arcade.

I made an appointment to have a tour of the trail with the Curator of Leeds City Museum, Lucy Moore. It is free and I urge the public to call in and ask.

The most famous sculpture of this trail, BLAST!, sits discretely in the corner of the museum. His machine gun poised, aiming towards the grand stairway of the entrance. Unlike the sombre feeling I had leaving Britannia, this puts a wide grin on my face.

Image: BLAST! Sitting discretely / Riza

As with the rest of the installations, the graphics covering the skin of the sculptures are strong images, slogans and symbols; some of which mythical, used during wartime.
One might recognise certain images. Like the ruins of Rheims Cathedral which is repeated in several of the sculptures and slogans like 'Women of Britain say GO!'.
This is the educational bit. By studying the graphics on the skin, one can get a feel of the tense atmosphere, the fear and pressure, even thoughts disseminated during those times.
Leeds Museum are running a special programme of exhibitions, events and activities until 2018 covering wartime Leeds so you have plenty of opportunity and time to explore this further.

Image: A very emotive representation of the demise of a cavalryman and his unicorn / Riza

Next on my trail is Kingdom of Dreams. A dead cavalryman on his unicorn.
This was my favourite piece that somehow tugged on my heartstrings. Perhaps it is due to the fact this 'man' is life sized. Based on a Bantam soldier (under 5'3”), he appeared almost real.
Installed at Kirkgate Market, the more diverse shopping destination in central Leeds, this relates well to the Bantams as majority were enlisted from mining and industrial areas whom were deemed too short to be in the army.
His stooped posture, bayonet gun in the crook of his arm and his fantasy war steed. They are both depicted dead. Perhaps because you have to look up at this one but there is still an air of pride to them dying.

The tour ended in the back showroom of a design bookshop with Enemy of the Stars. The most contemporary interpretation in this trail aptly installed in the modern space of Colours May Vary.

Image: A 'Dove Zeppelin' of peace / Riza

This is based on an air attack, a new development in warfare. It represents a German Zeppelin crashing on the outskirts of Leeds. Zeppelins were used predominantly to instill terror and break the morale of the people. I find the application of the Dove, a symbol for peace to portray the mysterious, terror-inducing Zeppelin intriguing. It distracts the viewer from the fear of the pilot, who is in the process of ejecting himself from the craft. It is a playful representation of the plight of the crew that went down with the Zeppelin. On one of the wings of the Dove, a British Aircraft Insignia, the other, the German counterpart. Again, a reminder of the casualties on both sides.

I came away more informed from my tour. Understanding not only wartime in Leeds but the thought processes gone into making the sculptures, the materials and some hidden quirks about them. These sculptures fold back into themselves(!) for storage and can be re-assembled again. There is still a fortnight left until the end of the exhibition and if you have not had a personalised tour, GO!

A Graphic War starts at Leeds City Museum
11:00am - 5:00pm every day until Monday, 30th November 2015

Yours truly,
Agent Crawl