- Title: British artist unveils thousands of shrouded figures for World War One centenary
- Date: 7th November 2018
- Summary: LONDON, ENGLAND, UK (NOVEMBER 7, 2018) (REUTERS) 'SHROUDS OF THE SOMME' INSTALLATION NEAR 'ARCELORMITTAL ORBIT' SCULPTURE IN QUEEN ELIZABETH OLYMPIC PARK VARIOUS OF INSTALLATION, COMPOSED OF THOUSANDS OF SHROUDED FIGURES ARTIST, ROB HEARD, STANDING AMONG INSTALLATION HEARD / SHROUDED FIGURE IN HEARD'S HAND (SOUNDBITE) (English) ARTIST, ROB HEARD, SAYING: "It's just really a way of physicalising a number. We talk of large numbers you know, in many conflicts, so we just say 'so many people died' and I just decided that we should try and physicalise that to understand, for myself, first, what these large sweeping numbers look like, and I just set about doing that in a strange way in that I decided to make a small figure, I got up a huge list of names from the War Graves Commission, of 72,000, and I just decided that I would make a small figure for every single one of those men to a name, and as I'd create the figure I'd cross the name off." VARIOUS OF INSTALLATION SEEN FROM ABOVE (SOUNDBITE) (English) ARTIST, ROB HEARD, SAYING: "It's all about the shroud, the shroud is made from a calico shroud and I would hand cut then hand stitch with a needle and thread the shroud, which took me sort of 18 months, nearly two years just doing that, and that's continuously 12, 14 hours a day every single day, because it's just a numbers game, you have to put a huge number in a certain amount of time heading for the centenary." VARIOUS OF SHROUDED FIGURES IN GRASS (SOUNDBITE) (English) ARTIST, ROB HEARD, SAYING: "I have no family members (who were killed during the Battle of the Somme), I have no military connection, I have nothing, which makes me such an odd person to do this, I'm a Somerset artist who used to make children sculptures, how I came to this I just don't know, I think that's what everybody wants, they want an ex-Afghan veteran with his leg off, you know, and I'm not, I'm just a machine, that's what I am." VARIOUS OF SOLDIERS LAYING DOWN FIGURINES (SOUNDBITE) (English) ARTIST, ROB HEARD, SAYING: "I only ever dealt with the figure in front of me, I dealt with them one at a time, I've never seen this, I've never seen them all together, they would... I would just bag them up, move them on, bag them up, so it's just extraordinary to see this, I'm staggered by it, I was never ready for this." VARIOUS OF INSTALLATION (SOUNDBITE) (English) PRIMARY SCHOOL TEACHER, SALLY NICHOLSON, 34, WHOSE GREAT UNCLE SIDNEY DIED AT THE SOMME, SAYING: "To know that finally Sidney has come back to English soil for the first time in over 100 years, it's really valuable to us as a family to know that someone has been thinking of these men and has been remembering them for all this time." VARIOUS NAMES OF MEN KILLED AT THE SOMME
- Embargoed: 21st November 2018 13:49
- Keywords: Shrouds of the Somme shrouded figures Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park Rob Heard installation
- Location: LONDON, ENGLAND, UK
- City: LONDON, ENGLAND, UK
- Country: United Kingdom
- Topics: Living / Lifestyle,Society/Social Issues
- Reuters ID: LVA00195IC5EH
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text:A British artist unveiled an installation composed of over 70,000 shrouded figures to mark the centenary of the end of World War One on Wednesday (November 7).
The Shrouds of the Somme installation is a collection of 72,396 small figurines laid out in London's Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Each one represents a British Commonwealth serviceman who was killed at the Somme and has no known grave.
The Battle of the Somme is one of the bloodiest battles in history.
The devastating World War One clash began on July 1, 1916, along a 15-mile (24 km) front near the River Somme in northern France, where British and French forces hoped to win a decisive victory against Germany.
Around 20,000 British soldiers died on the first day alone to capture just a few square miles of territory. By the end of the battle in November more than one million men had perished and the allies had advanced just seven miles (11 km).
Heard, from Somerset in southwest England, says he has no military background and is not aware of any relatives who died in the battle, but said he created the artwork to try to make sense of the death toll.
"We talk of large numbers you know, in many conflicts, so we just say, 'so many people died' and I just decided that we should try and physicalise that to understand, for myself, first, what these large sweeping numbers look like," he said.
Each 12-inch (30.5cm) figure is bound in a hand-stitched calico shroud. Heard says the painstaking process of preparing the cloth alone took over 18 months to complete, while the entire installation took four years of "continuous work".
On Wednesday, soldiers were laying the final figures out across a 4,400 square metre space in the shadow of Turner prize-winning artist Anish Kapoor's spiralling 'ArcelorMittal Orbit' tower.
Heard said it was "extraordinary" to see the completed project.
"I'm staggered by it, I was never ready for this," he added.
School teacher Sally Nicholson, 34, was also able to view the exhibition before it opens to the public on Thursday (November 8).
Her great uncle Sidney died while fighting alongside her great-grandfather Ernest at the Somme - meaning that one of the tens of thousands of Heard's figures represented him.
"To know that finally Sidney has come back to English soil for the first time in over 100 years, it's really valuable to us as a family to know that someone has been thinking of these men and has been remembering them for all this time," she said.
The Shrouds of the Somme exhibition runs until November 18.
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