Westhoek Belgium 

In the autumn of 2017 we began our collection of plant material from the

battlefields of Flanders. We started by extracting their coloured dyes and transferring these onto photographic material, looking for insight into the relationship between association and perception.

The resulting work is 66 plant extracts printed on photographic paper, hung in a visual grid measuring 245cm x 370cm. Accompanying this are two photographic prints of the locations Messines and Passendael, and four black and white prints of a bunker in the vicinity of Wytschaete. These bunker prints have a reflective silver surface that oxidizes and so changes over time.

The association with the location and the events that occurred here 100 years ago, together with the softness of the hues and the names of the plants invoke reflection on the strength and beauty of nature, and a strange sense of regret.

“ Messines” is a panorama of two overlapping large format negatives; two views of the same field representing the sameness of two different human perspectives.

“ Passchendaele” shows a chaos of objects strewn over farmland where still macabre remnants from the battle of Passendael are regularly unearthed; suggestive of the continuity, adaptability and resilience of the human condition.

 “ Wytschaete” is a set of four reflective silver gelatine prints; stone walls dissolving into the viewer's reflection when viewed from nearby. 

“Westhoek Belgium” is a plea for an end to the age of cynicism that began in the trenches of northern France a century ago. And dedicated to the families that never had the chance to be.

© arja hop / peter svenson 2013
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