Using original military armour, weaponry and bullet-proof textiles, War Boutique’s work conveys strong anti-war messages, exposing the interface between the civil and military spheres, and playing on the parallels between the uniforms of war and mainstream fashion trends.
M*A*S*H*E*D will feature more than 20 mixed-media pieces by War Boutique, spanning over a decade of his practice, and including his signature bulletproof vests, riot shields and batons.
The show will debut his new ‘Camouflage’ series of large-scale oil paintings on military textiles. These hypnotic camouflage canvases contain provocative references to the abstract expressionist movement, the founding of the New York School and its initial promotion to the art world through a covert CIA program.
The exhibition will also feature never-before-seen works from War Boutique’s new ‘Blast’ and ‘Shot-At’ series - with poignant echoes of the Action Art movement. The ‘Shot-At’ works are huge reflective metal shields contoured by the impact of 9mm rounds on a firing range. The ‘Blast’ paintings have been created by firing canvases with paint-filled plastic bullets modelled on police baton rounds.
War Boutique commented: “With these new works I wanted to physically manifest some of the real force and impact of modern-day weaponry, and perhaps invoke our collective responsibility and choices around the use and development of such forces”.
A key piece within the show is ‘Big Game’, a multi-layered textile artwork exploring the history and complexity of the conflict in Afghanistan. The title is taken from the term used to describe the strategic rivalry between Britain and Russia over trade routes through Afghanistan during the 19th century. The military fabrics that make up the letters are a chronological history of combat uniforms worn by British soldiers during the Afghan wars from 1839 to the present day. This striking work is part of War Boutique’s ‘The Great Game’ series, the first of which was acquired by the National Army Museum for its permanent collection in 2014. The Afghan Farsi version - ‘Big Game’ - was first shown at the Dresden Museum as part of the international touring exhibition ‘Caught in the Crossfire’, but the piece will be shown in the UK for the first time as part of M*A*S*H*E*D.
At Lawrence Alkin Gallery M*A*S*H*E*D will be split over two floors, with the top floor focusing on ‘military’ themed works and a ‘civil defence’ theme downstairs, featuring more playful works in War Boutique’s signature style. These will include some of his wearable artworks, alongside his ‘Proscription Cap’ in royal tartan, which can only legally be worn with permission from the ruling British monarch.