Michael Sandle: Study for a 20th century memorial
I was in the 108 Gallery in Harrogate over the weekend and the gallery was hosting an exhibition of Michael Sandle's drawings. Michael Sandle's work is powerful and politically charged. His sculptures are complex responses to a society that continues to give generous support to a powerful military–industrial complex. His work is harsh and uncompromising and is designed to be seen in public spaces, his 'Der Trommler' in the entrance to Tate Briton being typical of a type of sculpture that can stand toe to toe with both historical and contemporary public sculpture.
In his drawings technical drawing meets expressionism, meets drawing for sculpture. His drawings both explore the potential for making, and work as expressive vehicles in their own right. He uses technical drawing to give authenticity to the machine aesthetic that underlies modern armament production.
Michael Sandle: Bren Gun
Without technical drawings there would be no mass arms manufacture, and at the same time without technical drawing Sandle would not be able to give the degree of conviction to his drawings needed to make them work. Alongside the sharp precision of technical drawing he has a strong grasp of perspective and chiaroscuro, which he uses to control emotional intensity. (Compare other artists' use of tone for emotional effect here)
Machine Gun Monument
As Micky Mouse morphs into a machine gun we have two different types of drawing language being brought together, and in this morphing of styles Disney meets the Krupp armament industry. This might appear to be disingenuous but if you compare the long standing German armaments manufacturer Krupp AG’s 1991 acquisition of Hoesch AG in Germany with the way that the Walt Disney Company purchased land for Disney World in the 1960s, you can see that they employed the same business tactics. Business tactics that are very close to military tactics. Over the course of six months, Krupp slowly and anonymously purchased Hoesch shares through a Swiss bank. Because the stock purchases appeared to be normal, everyday transactions, Krupp was able to buy up a large percentage of Hoesch without triggering suspicion.
Disney anonymously purchased 30,000 acres of land in Florida, hiding its intentions and therefore preventing landowners putting up prices. The Chinese general He Nuobi advocated the outmaneuvering of opponents by hiding strategic military actions within a façade of everyday actions, a strategy designed to lull adversaries into inaction.
Industry is rarely politically neutral, this Disney cartoon from the mid 1940s being typical of their wartime production.
Walt Disney: 1940s
Sandle is very aware that Micky Mouse is a production of a country that hosts the most powerful military–industrial complex that the world has ever seen. His sculptures make us aware of the continuing need to be vigilant and to never forget how easily we can slip into war mode.
A 20th Century Memorial
If you are in Harrogate it is well worth visiting the 108 gallery and not just for the powerful Michael Sandle drawings, there is nearly always an interesting selection of contemporary work on display, always sensitively presented and chosen very selectively.
See gallery website for details of current exhibitions.
Other reflections on drawing and war