Laura Ford - Armour Boys (3 stars)

This article is from 2006.

Given the enormity of Laura Ford’s subject matter - children at war - this exhibition is surprisingly underwhelming. Ford has drawn on and subverted Scottish armour displays, particularly those at Fyvie Castle seen during a residency in Aberdeen in 2004. Her five armour-clad boys are no longer erect or invincible, but are felled, twisted and broken. This apparently exposes the ‘humaneness’ behind old Scottish suits of armour, as well as drawing attention to the many youths caught up in war today.

At first glance, Ford’s bronze cast boys are strewn carelessly around, some slumped against the wall, others face down, arms and legs bent this way and that. An inspection of the solid bronze reveals little detail, the dark surfaces looking aged and worn, making the boys more like prehistoric artefacts or old rocks dug up from the ground than broken, fragile humans. Giant, caricatured heads and feet take them even further from reality, making it hard to feel emotionally involved. The shiny, intricate armour of yore is a far cry from these clunky creatures. But their slumped helmeted heads and clad limbs do give a feeling of extreme weight and claustrophobia which could be likened to the burden of war; perhaps there could be a fragile person trapped somewhere beneath the hard exterior; someone who has developed an impenetrable skin to deal with unavoidable atrocities. Screenings, workshops, talks and events with the RSA on armoury and children at war will accompany the exhibition, and may well be more effective in bringing this pertinent, raw subject matter to life. (Rosie Lesso)

Royal Scottish Academy, Edinburgh, until 10 Sep

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