This paper considers the relationship between site, memory and fine art practices, as viewed from the perspectives of a practitioner informed by the discourses of commemoration and the aftermath of conflict. Through an exploration of art works derived from encounters with displaced spaces, peripheries and edgelands, Gough situates his practice – and that of several selected artists – as a conversation between “place”, “space” and the geopolitical. Artists have long employed the notions of ambiguity, transition and the hybrid in their work. Framed within the discourses of liminality and aftershock, practitioners have explored various strategies to address rites of in-betweenness to evoke a sensation of transition and displacement. To explore these ideas, Gough posits a number of his artworks as ‘provocations’, and draws attention to other contemporary artists and practitioners similarly drawn to the aftermath of constructed places and re-constructed histories. The paper draws upon two suites of Gough’s work each addressing aspects of the aftermath, and each to a degree addressing issues of transgression. The first is a series of site-specific photographs take on the decrepit and abandoned British army bases in former West Germany where Gough’s family was garrisoned during the Cold War. They speak of an abjectness and blankness tempered by the depth of familial association. The second suite of practice use frottage, rubbings and photographic collage, to assemble a cycle of triptych forms drawn from prolonged site visits to the sites of twentieth century battle in Turkey, France, Belgium and Macedonia: locations richly associated with transgressive military intervention and now comprised of preserved terrain, military cemeteries and rhetorical topography that has long informed Gough’s practice.
About the author
Paul Gough is Vice-Chancellor at Arts University Bournemouth, UK. A painter, broadcaster and author, he has exhibited internationally and is represented in the permanent collection of the Imperial War Museum, London, the Canadian War Museum, Ottawa, and the National War Memorial, Wellington. Along with leading roles in international higher education and global research assessment, his research into the representation of war and peace has been presented to audiences throughout the world. He has published nine books, including monographs on the British painter Stanley Spencer, Paul and John Nash, and several comprehensive studies of art from both world wars. He worked in television for ten years and is currently writing his second book about the street artist, Banksy.
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