The starting point for Graham Gingles’ poignant tribute to the men that fought in WWI was a decorative brass box sent to the men at the front by Princess Mary at Christmas 1914. One wonders what she presumed they would use them for? The title of the work coming from a line found in the War diaries of Robert McGooken from Larne:
“At times like these men were wishing they were all kinds of insects”.
The work itself has a funereal air, the installation a piercing white, as if carved out of marble; a symbolic gesture toward the headstone perhaps? What are also striking are the interior qualities to the sculpture; the stairs, the cabinets, the front door, the hall flowers (lilies of course), all underscore the life lived at home. A life that stalled, many times irreparably whilst the man of the house was away. The sense of expectation and the interminable waiting is also felt here. The opened draws under the stairs evoke the many letters sent home informing a family that their loved one had been killed. Hallways, cabinets, flowers; a house turned in on itself as a site of remembrance.
My Grandfather was a Republican man from The Moy who fought in WWI for the Irish Guards and unlike many of his hometown friends, mercifully survived the Somme. His bravery and quick decision-making (which the family only found reference to recently) is recorded in Rudyard Kipling’s chronicles of the Great War. He was by all accounts too traumatised by the bloodshed to ever mention his experiences in the War, and as a man that lived the rest of his life in Dublin, probably too frightened to mention he had volunteered.
Gingles has found the right note for all of these emotions and done so with compassion, he also managed to create a marvellous work of art. This work is wonderful and should be seen by all.
“At times like these men were wishing they were all kinds of insects” is showing at The Mac, Belfast from 4th July- 17th August. www.themaclive.com