Art and Artists : A Commision in the Army
Keith Holmes: Royal Marines and mine-clearing
Painter, pasteler and
draughtsman, Keith Holmes studied at West Surrey College of Art
and Design, and Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts (1973 - 75).
In 1999 he was made official artist to the Mines Advisory Group.
He was a prize winner in 'The Discerning
Eye 1995' , and
commended at the 'Guild for Aviation Artists'
shows of 1998 and 1999.
Keith has worked regularly for the British Royal Marines and the
Royal Navy since 1995.
One man shows include :
'Sea Soldiers: A year with the Royal Marines'
(Royal Society of Pathologists, 1996)
'Flying Soldiers' (Army
Flying Museum, 1997)
(The Mall Galleries, London October 1998)
'I am currently (1999) working with the Mines Advisory Group who
generously funded me to go to Laos and Cambodia at the end of last
year to see at first hand what they ... were doing to improve conditions.
My initial observation is that it will take years to undo the damage,
particularly in Cambodia. I'm working towards a big exhibition ...
the work will be more than just about landmines or unexploded ordnance
(UXO) and will deal with the recent history of the region including
effects of the Khmer Rouge in destroying the cultural identity of
The underlying theme will be one of fragmentation and this may eventually
be the title of the exhibition'
| War Art and
Artists : A Commision in the Army
Painter of Contemporary Regimental Incidents
is truth’: Representing the British
military through commissioned artworks
work of ‘regimental artists’ is often derided for being
jingoistic, irrelevant and predicated on anachronistic representational
strategies rooted in high-Victorian battle painting. Despite their
marginal status, a core of professional painters today work regularly
for the British armed services to record, and occasionally commemorate,
contemporary and past feats of arms, as well as more mundane public
service duties such as ceremonial display and ‘Keeping the
Army in the Public Eye’ (KAPE) tours. Their work is largely
unseen by the non-military public, largely because it is intended
for a closed community of serving soldiers, their families, and
veterans who are associated with the unit. Yet, as a sizeable contemporary
body of art work, it contributes to the commemorative rhetoric of
the British military and employs a number of artists of national
Drawing on the author’s own experiences as a several-times
commissioned military artist, this paper is a ‘work-in-progress’
that examines the work of several painters - John Ross, Ken Howard,
and Keith Holmes - who have worked intermittently for the British
armed services in the past three decades. But the paper will takes
as its principle working case-study the work of painter David Rowlands,
commissioned in the 1990s by the Permanent Joint Headquarters (UK)
as their official artist to record the British build-up in the Arabian
Gulf, and since then fully employed by units in the British army
(and some overseas military units) to paint commemorative works
related to active service overseas, largely in Iraq and more recently
Through an examination of Rowlands’ work, the paper touches
upon the formal language of military painting, particularly the
tensions between illustration and interpretation, between factual
and technical accuracy, and examines the issues of authenticity
and historical verity. The paper also touches upon issues of agency
and reception, and the stresses between the commissioning process,
the independence of the artist as interpreter, and broader concerns
of testimony and visual authority.
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