University of Essex hosts Remembrance tribute to Iraq War dead

  • 12 October 2009

An artwork commemorating British servicemen and women killed in Iraq is now on display at the University of Essex Art Gallery and is on view until Saturday 14 November 2009. Official war artist Steve McQueen's Queen and Country takes the form of facsimile postage stamps featuring the faces of those who were killed as a result of the conflict, including many who served from the garrison town of Colchester. The Art Fund, the UK's leading independent art charity, is touring the work as part of its campaign to see the work issued as official stamps by Royal Mail. The exhibition has been timed to coincide with the annual Remembrance period.

The artwork is a collaboration with 155 families whose loved ones have lost their lives in Iraq. Each stamp sheet is dedicated to a fallen member of the Armed Forces and features a photographic portrait chosen by their family.

Until the stamps are officially issued by Royal Mail, McQueen considers Queen and Country incomplete. The Art Fund brings the work to Colchester over the annual Remembrance period as part of the campaign to gain public support for the stamps. Visitors to the gallery will be invited to sign The Art Fund’s online petition urging Royal Mail to issue the stamps. The petition can be found at www.artfund.org/queenandcountry and has so far gathered the support over 20,000 people.

The work includes the image of 24 year old Corporal Paul Long. He was in Iraq serving with the Colchester based 156 Provost Company of the Royal Military Police when he was killed on 24 June 2003. Paul was one of six Royal Military Police gunned down at a police station in the town of Al Majar al-kabir whilst training local officers.

Paul’s wife Gemma Long, is one of the family members to have collaborated on the Queen and Country project. She said: "I really wish that Royal Mail would publish these stamps. Those of us that have taken part in Steve McQueen’s Queen and Country would like to think that the British public would wish to see a serviceman or woman who has died for their country on a letter that comes through the door. That would really show honour and respect."

Andrew Macdonald, Acting Director of The Art Fund said: "Queen and Country is a powerfully moving work which challenges us to think again about the relationship we have with those who die serving in our name.  Over 20,000 people across the UK have signed our petition for real stamps to be issued, seeing what Royal Mail seems unable to grasp: the opportunity presented by an artist of international renown for the whole country to join in reflection and tribute. We urge everyone in Colchester to come and see the work, and join our campaign."

Jessica Kenny, Arts and Gallery Director of the University of Essex said: "This thought provoking artwork is going to make a tremendous impact with our audience - Colchester has a long tradition of a military presence and Queen and Country will resonate all the more in this context. While very much a fitting tribute to the deceased, Queen and Country also has an extraordinary ability to prompt further questions and we’re really looking forward to exploring issues raised."

Brigadier James Chiswell MC, Commander of 16 Air Assault Brigade said: "We are grateful to the University of Essex and The Art Fund for inviting us to view this excellent art exhibition. A number of soldiers from 16 Air Assault Brigade are featured in the exhibition and we cherish their memories. It is an honour to be here with one of their families today. The pictures are a poignant reminder of the continuing sacrifices of HM Forces on operations."

Steve McQueen was born in London in 1969. He won the Turner Prize in 1999 and was awarded an OBE in 2002. His first feature film Hunger won the Camera d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 2008 and the Carl Foreman Award at the 2009 BAFTAs. He is currently representing Britain at the 53rd Venice Biennale with his new film Giardini.

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Contact The Art Fund: Lizzie Bloom at lbloom@artfund.org, 0207 225 4888 or 07912 777761 (out of hours) for enquiries regarding the campaign, artwork and family involvement.

Contact University of Essex Communications Office: Vicky Passingham at vpass@essex.ac.uk or 01206 872929 for enquiries regarding the exhibition at the University Gallery.

Notes to editors:

1. For details of the tour, and to sign The Art Fund petition, please visit www.artfund.org/queenandcountry

2. Steve McQueen was commissioned by The Imperial War Museum and Manchester International Festival to respond to the conflict in Iraq.

3. Queen and Country is part of the Imperial War Museum’s permanent collection, following its presentation by The Art Fund in November 2007 with a full grant of £60,000.

4. The Art Fund is the UK’s leading independent art charity. It offers grants to help UK museums and galleries enrich their collections; campaigns on behalf of museums and their visitors; and promotes the enjoyment of art.

5. It is entirely funded from public donations and has 80,000 members. Since 1903 the charity has helped museums and galleries all over the UK secure 860,000 works of art for their collections.

6. Recent achievements include: helping secure Titian’s Diana and Actaeon for the National Galleries of Scotland and the National Gallery, London in February 2009 with a grant of £1 million; helping secure Anthony d’Offay’s collection, ARTIST ROOMS, for Tate and National Galleries of Scotland in February 2008 with a grant of £1million; and running the ‘Buy a Brushstroke’ public appeal which raised over £550,000 to keep Turner’s Blue Rigi watercolour in the UK.

7. For more information contact the Press Office on 020 7225 4888 or visit www.artfund.org

8. The Art Fund is a Registered Charity No. 209174