This powerful print was chosen as the promotional image for DRAW 14, the 93rd Annual Open Exhibition of the Society of Graphic Fine Art.
“I created this image for the Society’s DRAW 14 Annual Open Exhibition. The optional theme is Remembrance, to mark the centenary of World War 1. I was drawn to images of the trenches, as these encapsulate the horrific and dehumanising conditions suffered by soldiers in the midst of war.
In particular I wanted to capture the agonising moment just as the men have been poised waiting for orders, then finally receive the command to go over the top. From our vantage point of history, sadly we know that so many of them were about to be gunned down.
Some elements of this image are readily recognisable. I wanted it to be authentic so I based it on a widely reproduced photograph taken in the trenches. I’ve tried, but without success, to identify the photographer. I am not even sure whether his identity was known at the time.
I began by drawing the image in pencil, but I had planned from the start to render it as a wood engraving. I wanted to maximise the darkness of the image and to focus on the characteristic round metal helmets.
In fact, this detail dates the image to 1916 or later: it’s hard to believe, but for the first two years of the war the soldiers wore cloth hats.
I incorporated images of explosions on the horizon, to create a backdrop that both contrasted with the dark trenches and reflected the horror of what lay beyond. And for the title I borrowed the first few words from Siegfried Sassoon’s war poem Attack. I felt that these perfectly captured the essence of the image.”
Profile of the artist
Rebecca Coleman ASGFA joined the Society in 2014, following her successful submission for DRAW 13, the SGFA Annual Open Exhibition the previous year. She exhibits regularly in London, elsewhere in the UK and abroad. Her work has been seen in the 2012 and 2013 Summer Exhibitions at the Royal Academy of Art, and she has exhibited with the Royal West of England Academy and the Society of Wood Engravers.
In recent years Rebecca has focused on drawing and monochrome printmaking. She has achieved particular recognition and success with her ongoing series of wood engravings and linocuts exploring the world of the London Underground.
Having lived in London for several years, Rebecca has recently moved to south Wales. For more about Rebecca and her art please visit her web site www.rebeccacoleman.co.uk and follower her on Twitter @RColemanArt.
Society of Wood Engravers www.woodengravers.co.uk
Royal West of England Academy www.rwa.org.uk