Underpinned by an exhaustive investigation of personal histories, specific objects or significant sites my work examines the legacy of conflict, particularly focusing on WWII. Through a highly individual & scientific investigation of material and process, I create artworks that form a tangible link to a remote time or experience. Meticulous research and the application of materials with a specific resonance, combine to create works that are talismanic, contracting history, substance and experience into a single entity.
The legacy of conflict is one that defines my family tree and the fortune of my birth. It is enlivened through the first-hand testimony of veterans and it resides in the somewhat incongruous architectural remains that scatter my local landscape. It is embodied in myriad forms from monumental sculpture and feature film to enigmatic artefact and personal archive. All of these have inspired my work as I endeavour to respond to a reality that remains abstract and incomprehensible.
I explore the paradoxes of ‘remembrance’. How can I ‘remember’ that which I have not experienced? How can I ‘preserve a memory’ which may no longer exist in the body of an individual but as a shifting a mutating web of cultural references? Through the honesty and tangibility of materials – the humble matter of lives previously lived – I encourage audiences to unpick the monumental, the sensational and the mythologised.
For example, ‘The Fifty’, portrays those men executed after the real-life ‘Great Escape’, employing a unique process of applying ‘Klim’ milk to blotting paper and cooking. Received in the PoW’s Red Cross parcels; ‘Klim’ (milk backwards) sustained life not only as a foodstuff but also a means of building ventilation ducts to the tunnels, this endeavour ultimately resulting in their cruel murder. This body of work was exhibited at the Zagan Palace, Poland in March 2014 as part of the ‘Great Escape’ 70th anniversary commemorations.
My two-year long collaboration with former POW artist Ted Milligan, until his death in July 2011, extended my practice into the fields of curator, facilitator and archivist, leading to high profile exhibitions in the UK and the exhibition Dual Perspectives at the Moscow Architecture Biennale and the St Petersburg University of Architecture.
Partially inspired by this collaboration I became a partner in the ‘Combat Art’ project, designing and distributing pocket sized art kits to members of 40 Commando Royal Marines for their 2012-2013 (Herrick 17) deployment to Afghanistan. The resulting work was exhibited in the Marines’ home town of Taunton in Nov 2013 and at the Menier Gallery, London in March/April 2015.
My residency with the Fleet Air Arm Museum, Yeovilton supported by the SAW Creative Pathways programme resulted in exhibitions; ‘Operation Chameleon’ and ‘the Unconscious Archive’. I have also produced the centre-piece installation for the Museum of Somerset, ‘Somerset Remembers’ exhibition in 2014 as well as being commissioned to produce bodies of work for clients in North and Central America and Europe.
A full CV can be found here: Prospectus – Jon England