Remembering, We Forget: Aftermath I & II

Curator Andrew Palmer from the exhibition catalogue: [Charlotte Mew’s ‘The Cenotaph] is able to represent some of the confusions and strains involved in being a mourner, and in attempting to imagine those who are mourned.  The images of the Broadstairs War Memorial created by K.J.Shepherdson achieves this same insightful ambivalence. For each image, Shepherdson begins by taking a Polaroid photograph and then, in a delicate process, she lifts the fragile surface away from its backing. In this state, the image is, in her words, ‘like a small piece of fine silk or layer of skin’. This she carefully transfers onto watercolour paper. The result is fragile, evanescent, translucent film through which the rough texture of the paper can be seen. The memorial’s frieze is made of bronze which like the stone to which it is fixed, speaks of permanence: ‘their names liveth for evermore’ is what this material says. Re-presented in Sheherdson’s work, that sense of permanence is not exactly undermined - the effect is not simply ironic - but is rather adjoined to, or simultaneous with, the fragility. The metal faces of striving soldiers come under our scrutiny and movingly regain their human fragility. We see the minute detail afresh and are reminded both of the physical reality of the men represented, of the sculptor’s skill. The moustaches, the beaky noses, the eyes hidden under tin hats, the veins on the backs of their hands - these become both more and less real, closer to the men represented, and further away. Where the original frieze has sharply-defines outlines, these images are ragged around the edges, like the photographs which soldiers carried with them, like something found in the mud. Our emotional response at this great distance of time, connects us not with Kipling or Sassoon, but with Charlotte Mew whose response to the Cenotaph is so heart-breakingly confused and therefore so true.

Further response to Aftermath I II can also be found at