‘In Parenthesis’ was made in early 2011 (revised in 2023) and was a reflective piece as I approached the end of my military career. For a number of reasons the piece provided a rather cathartic emotional release. The title is borrowed from David Jones’ haunting and epic prose-poem based on his experiences in the First World War. Like me, David Jones was an artist who served as a soldier before finding a release through art. In his prologue he describes his war years as written in a ‘kind of space between’ and describes the war itself as a parenthesis. Similarly, the years of my military service sit somewhat incongruously between leaving Art College and returning to the art making process some twenty plus years later.
In this, as with many of my works, I have presented the piece as a kind of riddle with clues in the materials and layered (and double) references which are sometimes literal but often deliberately ambiguous to entice the viewers to discover their own meaning. The canvas is a British medical stretcher from the First World War and the 180 moths are made from plaster of Paris. The straps of the stretcher, used to keep it together when folded, resemble parenthesis marks. Like the canvas of the stretcher, the plaster of Paris is a material used by both artists and medics alike. The moths are pinned, immobile to the canvas. Flags, emblems, war cemeteries and tented camps are amongst the more literal references. The frame is made from mahogany; traditionally used to make campaign chests for military officers. The brass cabinet corners echo this theme and suggest encasement and the 'boxing off' of difficult themes. This is reinforced by the glass front to suggests a museum cabinet; reflecting how swiftly the major episodes of our life become consigned to history.
For more about David Jones and an associated work of art more directly based on his experiences see my post about 'A Wood in France'.
Richard Rochester lives and works in Exeter in the south west of England