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Le masque forestier
By Mathilde Blondeel Colour pencils, 2018, 42 x 29.7 cm based on vegetal material collected near the Forrester House.
A drawing in colour pencils designed to be a realistic representation of a stretch of ground near the Forrester House. However, as you look more and more closely, your eye will slowly identify the concealed shape of a gas mask hidden beneath the layers of leaves, drowned “As under a green sea”. The artist's statement points out her choice is also in keeping with the realism that transpires in Owen's poems, particularly the lines “Many had lost their boots/But limped on, blood-shod”. Originally conceived of as a protective device, the mask has, in the course of time, become a death mask and the leaves carry the reminiscent power of Owen's poems. The sweet scent of decaying leaves is the counterpoint to the irony of Pro Patria Mori at the end of Dulce et Decorum Est. Drawing in colour is a meticulous and multi-layered process, but so is the cycle of life and death that transforms bodily remains into vegetal matter, to which Blondeel wanted to offer a new life through her artwork, as well as pay tribute to Owen's poetry and legacy.