Late in 2013 I watched a BBC documentary about soldiers returning from the conflict in Afghanistan. I was moved by the ways that some had come through their experiences apparently untroubled, but many had returned deeply traumatised. These young men and women had become soldiers with a prospect of great adventure, where they may have imagined themselves invincible. Having completed intense training, entering a conflict was an extreme test of their endurance. This could be regarded as a rite of passage, the psychological and physical transition from childhood to becoming adult, and at times being close to death.
They had been initiated and tested in battle and many returned to their families, deeply traumatised, wounded in mind and body and searching for meaning and struggling to get on with their everyday lives. Some found it extremely difficult to relate to those close to them and more significantly, to cope with the conflict within themselves.
My current work began in September 2013 with the figure of the Warrior. This was intended to be the final piece for a series titled Gilgamesh. In 2008, I won the Zelli Porcelain Award for Enkidu’s Dream, the first of a series of works based on the Epic of Gilgamesh.
This epic poem is the earliest story of an ancient Mesopotamian warrior king seeking immortality through dangerous exploits, glorious deeds. and ultimately his despair. He comes to realise that his name can only endure by leaving some lasting achievement. The story of his path to wisdom and how he is formed by his successes and failures, offers insight into the human condition that two thousand years later, still resonates. The poem debates the proper duties of kingship and our responsibilities to family and children. After many adventures Gilgamesh is advised;
Cherish the little one holding thy hand,
And let thy wife rejoice in thy bosom,
This is the lot of mankind 1
War is often referred to as theatre and as such, the figures are the dramatis personae in a sculptural drama. There is no continuous narrative, these are moments of pathos, of loss and of hope.