Andrew Gilbert's uncanny and visually expressive portrayal of the Anglo-Zulu war audaciously challenges the observer to examine colonialism, conflict, and cultural divide from a refreshingly new perspective. The exhibit features a life-size installation of four British soldiers combined with Zulu tribe masks and weapons, and an assortment of paintings which convey powerful, deeply concentrated images of the Anglo Zulu war of 1879.
An unadulterated and chaotic sense of instability underlies Gilbert's installation. His use of low grade materials; dried up carrots, rotted pineapples, and rusted nails entwined with Zulu warrior masks, British soldier uniforms, and hand-crafted artillery brilliantly captures the magnitude and sheer intensity of such a battle. The striking combination of Zulu weaponry and British traditionalism not only reveals the catastrophic nature of the Anglo Zulu War, but of war itself. The bold, unequivocal application of red, white, and blue (colors of the British flag) blatantly and strategically overshadows the rustic and [often] subtle display of tribal artifacts. Through this theatrical motif, Gilbert encourages the spectator to question the relationship between victory and defeat; superiority and subordination.
The paintings exude a rare combination of symbolism, patriotism, and often dream like compositions. Through a unique blend of pencil, acrylic, and watercolor the British and Zulu images are often unkempt, whimsical, and playfully mingled with one another. His daring use of red, white, and blue to convey British superiority blatantly surpasses the warm brown, yellow, and green shades used for the Zulu tribe warriors. Furthermore, Gilbert's incessant and randomly assorted portrayal of mushrooms and baby chicks dressed as British soldiers is hard to decipher, and leaves room for much interpretation.
Taken as a whole, Gilbert's work undoubtedly captures the tension, magnitude, and vitality of conflict and struggle. The installation and images combined offer profound intensity, and room for [open] thought.
For more information on this event and others featured at Ten Haaf Projects, visit their website at www.tenhaafprojects.com