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Fred McSherry

Artist Statement

Recent Prints + Paintings 2006 – 2010


1916 offers an historical reflection of the world at war. Comprising a series of paintings and etchings made 'after' photographs and posters from WWI, the project considers the individual contributions and collective ideologies that underwrite global conflict, then and now.

The paintings and some of the etchings rework photographic portraits of groups of military personnel from different countries involved in WWI; to date portraits from Canada, the USA, France, Germany, Russia, Turkey, Belgium, India, Nepal and Italy have been completed. In each of these works special attention is paid to the individual parts that make up the whole: unique faces, and stances separate the one from the many, the individual from the group. Just as differences within each order are made apparent, similarities in circumstances from one to the other come to the fore. Regardless of personal belief or particular situation all participants are in harm's way, all are at war.

The balance of the series of etchings points to the ideological productions supporting war efforts. The series is divided into various groupings beginning with:
(a) diverse collections of soldiers and officers;
(b) monarchs and political leaders;
(c) avant-garde artists and organizations;
(d) future leaders;
(e) thematic groupings of war propaganda from opposing powers.

This last set is derived from war posters which share and reflect many of the same representational tropes and historically specific political biases and cultural beliefs.

While these works are focused on the social and cultural mechanisms underwriting the First World War, they are nonetheless relevant in relation to international conflict today. The retrospective look allows a long view of the nationalist and heroic rationalizations fueling the engines of war.

The Centre for Contemporary Canadian Art
The Canadian Art Database: Canadian Artists Files

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