This incredibly emotive, large figure art doll, created by Gillian Runting stands as a figure of womens love, pain, passion and fury. She has a very specific story of her own but she also carrys the stories of each and every one of us. She is a truly amazing piece to behold.
The original trench that Gillian created for the piece is also available separately.
For Your Tomorrow - Gillian Runting
I'd like you to meet Annie and Walter Moore, my great grandparents. They had three boys - Reginald (Reggie), Cecil and Mervlyn (my dad’s dad) - what glorious names!
In 1918, Reggie was killed on the Somme, while serving with the Devonshire Regiment. He was 19. It was just two weeks before the end of WW1.
I had never heard mention of Reggie and discovered his story only when we came across Reggie's war medals after my own dad died.
“For your tomorrow we gave our today” was created for an exhibition at the Royal Engineers Museum, Gillingham, Kent in March 2023.
When I visited the museum, I was drawn to the corps’ development of tunnelling and trench-building. As soon as I saw the museum’s depiction of a WW1 trench, I knew that I had found my inspiration - my work would weave together this powerful structure and my own family history…
After seeing the Museum’s trench, my mind was taken to Annie - her anguish and grief - the agony of maternal loss. A slow process of sitting with her pain led me to create my mixed-media installation. It gives voice to a largely silent generation of mothers, whose hopes and dreams were extinguished on the WW1 battlefields.
A mother, wrought with anguish, claws at a bottomless trench; over its edge, HER hopes and dreams have disintegrated, their family’s future. The figure is Reggie's mother…and ALL mothers.
A generation is lost; a private agony that sits amongst so many of our stories.
I am unable to ask Annie questions, but I can imagine…
"When you go home,
Tell them of us and say,
For your tomorrow,
We gave our today"
(John Maxwell Edmonds, February 1918)
I was delighted and honoured when Alanda invited me to show this work with Aether to Easel at the Aberdeen Art Fair and Mind, Body, Spirit Festival 2023.
We discussed the limitations of space for the work in its current form; I considered showing just the top portion of the work, but was troubled by the loss of integrity and the dissipation of Annie’s grief that this would bring.
My challenge in re-working this piece was to bring something new, while referring to the old. Also, I was very clear that this piece should be able to be displayed in EITHER version, according to circumstance.
I allowed images of Annie to flow through my mind. I saw a boat adrift at sea. I saw the figurehead of a boat. I saw a permanent fissure of blood-red pain. Previously, Annie was held at the edge of the trench; here, she is at sea, lost in her grief.
The original base is worked in thick layers of papier maché; here I needed the base to be real wood. The new work is smaller, but its weight and solidity have parity with the original trench.
To create this new base, I used a piece of Eucalyptus hardwood, felled from my garden. I worked by hand, chiselling the rift into the side of the wood.
I worked intuitively; I brought Annie alongside me and allowed the pain I felt to inform the shapes I made. I see Annie as her children’s figurehead, guiding their way through life.
The fissure I carved is filled with pain - the flow of her dreams forever re-routed towards the jaws of a serpent - a new figurehead now directing her grief.