I have endeavoured to capture the spirit of the music and words, as this monumental piece moves along its journey, always bearing in mind the cost to humanity.
Britten himself used Owen’s words to preface his piece:
“My subject is War, and the pity of War,
The Poetry is in the pity …
All a poet can do today is warn .”
Each print is 33cm x 50cm, in an edition of 10 using handmade paper from Moulin de Larroque, Couzes, France. Each is individual due to the nature of the paper and the printing process. This is important as the handmade paper represents human skill and individuality – as every soldier was an individual, loved by their friends and family for being themselves.
Bells toll, music and voices rise in intensity, you can hear death’s heavy footsteps coming ever closer.
Dies irae l
Shells fall and bombs explode, obliterating men from the earth. This print includes words from the birth certificate of my Great-great Uncle, Harry Alfred George Hayter, who died in 1918, aged 19.
I was thrilled when Dies irae l won the John Purcell Paper Prize at the RE’s National Open Print Competition in London, 2015.
Dies irae ll
The height of the battle, flashes of light from explosions capture figures, holding them still for an instant.
Dies irae lll
The darkest part of the War Requiem. Light and hope are extinguished with death.
The angels sing their request: “deliver the souls of the departed from the pains of hell, and the bottomless pit”.
Amidst dissonant bells the Soprano sings, flanked by a towering mass of humanity, as they repeat “Blessed is he who cometh in the name of the Lord”.
To capture the simplicity and melancholy of this section I have used an image from Prowse Point Cemetery.
The end of the journey, through the tunnel and into “the perpetual light” and peace. There is a meeting, and reconciliation.
A while after completing the series, I saw a documentary which included aerial photographs of Ypres and the surrounding area. I was stunned by the images: gashes in the landscape, craters, lines of trenches and piles of rubble – as they were also in my sketchbook, drawn in charcoal as I had listened to the music. Benjamin Britten had put these images into music, and I had found them.
For someone whose work usually celebrates life and joie de vivre, this interpretation took me well out of my comfort zone. It remains the most challenging series I have created so far.