Bob and Roberta Smith - Lost Artists (2014). Giclee print on Somerset Enhanced 100% cotton rag paper with hand-finished edges.
Hand-signed and numbered from the edition of 200. Published by Imperial War Museums, London. Sheet: 60 x 60 cm.Provenance: Acquired personally from Imperial War Museums. With original postal tube - see photo. Bob and Roberta Smith says,'Both my grandfathers fought in the First World War and survived. I have been obsessed by this serendipitous fact since being a child. These thoughts raise a number of questions for the artist such as,'What might have been if so many people of a generation had lived? He adds,'It has been deeply moving working on this project. When there is no one left to remember the experience of the First World War perhaps the question becomes, How do we understand the First World War? Who are Bob and Roberta Smith?
Bob and Roberta Smith is the name of the British artist whose best known works include: Make Art Not War, which belongs to the Tate collection; and Letter to Michael Gove. In 2013, Bob and Roberta launched the Art Party with Crescent Arts, Scarborough.The Art Party seeks to better advocate the arts to Government. The Art Party is NOT a formal political party, but is a loose grouping of artists and organisations who are deeply concerned about the Government diminishing the role of all the arts and design in schools. Bob and Roberta Smith see art as an important element in democratic life. Much of their art takes the form of painted signs. Central to Bob and Roberta Smith's thinking is the idea that campaigns are extended art works which include a variety of consciousness raising artefacts.
Bob and Roberta Smith studied for his MA at Goldsmiths from 1991 to 93. He was an Artist Trustee of Tate between 2009 and 2013, and he is currently a trustee for the National Campaign for the Arts, and a patron of the NSEAD. He has recently been elected to be a Royal Academician. Bob and Roberta Smith is actually one man.
Before studying Fine Art at Goldsmiths in the early 1990's, Bob lived in Rome, New York and Wensleydale, and now lives between Leytonstone in East London and Ramsgate. My father was obsessed with the First World War. My grandfather was a sapper at Ypres and had been invalided out of the war after being buried alive. Sappers had to dig under no man's land and plant explosives to blow up the German front lines from beneath.My father took me to the Imperial War Museum (IWM) in London every six months during my childhood - he even built me a model of Baron Richthofen's fearsome triple-winged red aeroplane from balsa wood and tissue paper. Seeing these horrors of war gave me terrible nightmares. I would dream I was waiting in a trench waiting for the sergeant's whistle for us to go "over the top". When the whistle blew I would have blinding headaches and see surging, shifting colours, a sort of abstract nightmare. Both my grandfathers made a bracelet from some sort of tin while they were in the trenches.
The sapper grandfather wrote "Ypres" on his bracelet. My mother's father made his bracelet into a love heart on which he had inscribed the word "Mother". My mother said of her father: He went to war a man and came back a child. He had seen so many of his friends killed and he was never the same.
I see the items I have designed for IWM as rather like these folk-art bracelets. I have chosen to look at the First World War through the lens of being an artist. Art tells us a human truth that no other reporting can: that in the face of destruction the beauty of being a human being resides in our hope, cleverness and creativity.
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