No Man’s Land exhibition opens in Gillingham

A new art exhibition opened earlier this week at the Royal Engineers Museum in Gillingham. The World War One inspired exhibit, ‘No Man’s Land’, is a continuing collaboration with Students from the University of Creative Arts.

The opportunity is offered as one of the UCA’s third year modules and the artwork is inspired from the royal engineers archives.

The exhibition opened on Wednesday the 5th of February, showcasing this years theme ‘No Man’s Land’. 

The title of the exhibit was chosen by the students, who took inspiration from various World War One artefacts found in the archives and each took a unique approach to the project. 

Student Chiara Barnett spent a painstaking amount of time pairing up sketches of generals by an unknown artist with their original matching photographs, each general taking 3 days to research. 

Chiara explains, “each person has their own little story, what they went through. They’ve almost become invisible, they’ve almost all died out, they’ve all passed away.”

“The artist’s signature was a little W that’s all I had, I had no name, so I’ve learnt that they didn’t care much about soldiers through a lot of research, but generals they lived on.”

Others took a more hands on approach, recreating snapshots inspired by not only archive  photographs, but also letters and personal items. 

Zoe Storer found that many of the artefacts had a more social significance than a military one, with photos often including dogs and other animals such as horses which showed the often underrated but important role animals had in the war effort. 

Penny Hartley also used the archives photos, but instead decided to layer aerial photographs of the trenches in the Somme over images of World War One royal engineers using photoshop. 

Penny  has taken part in a number of the Royal engineers exhibitions before and at college she worked with the Brompton barracks helping photograph for their archive. 

“I’ve lived in Gillingham my whole life and I’ve been to [the royal engineers museum] a couple of times and I just found it really interesting.”

“I thought of the idea of the fact that the engineers are always part of the landscape. All the work they do is always going to be there. So I wanted to incorporate that into the images by layering their faces under the places where they fought.”

This partnership with UCA has been ongoing since 2013 and the brief each year is open to wide creative interpretation.

Students are given full access to the archives and freedom to produce artwork in a wide array of formats. Over the years past students have produced photographs, video pieces, moving photographs, and even vases. 

Danielle Sellers, Collections manager for the Royal Engineers Museum is involved with the annual project each year. She explains, “We like to give them free rein really.”

“We’re quite happy to see what they come out with and it’s just really interesting to see people who aren’t necessarily into military history with respond to a military content, and not always military content, there’s quite good social history in the photograph collection as well in the archives.”

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