Imperial War Museum,
Flowers East Gallery,
On his appointment as the official artist of the Bosnian war, The Times newspaper wrote that Peter Howson’s ‘often violent images’ paired with his ability to ‘invest ordinary men and women with heroic dignity’, made him an obvious choice to chronicle the catastrophe in Bosnia.
Peter’s magnificent response to this challenge marked an important development in his art – in particular – his more vibrant pallet. The resulting images are astounding historical documents: representing the deep and ingrained impact that the scenes in Bosnia had on Peter – deeply affecting the nature of his art and his personal life. Peter has described his time as an artist in Bosnia as being wrought with difficulty.
His mind was often driven blank with fear and he struggled to gain any sense of the imagination necessary to make the harrowing images relatable to an audience back home. Moreover, Peter’s priority in his art was to search for humanity in the hellish scenes of his trip – something he has admitted to have been searching for in his work ever since.
The resulting body of works display a deep sense of Peter’s reactions to the garish and undignified depravity of the war. The images display an often frantic and surreal interpretation of scenes in which the harsh brutality of suffering, poverty and violence have robbed the landscape of its inherent calm. In this series of works, Peter has conveyed not only the climate of fear felt in Bosnia at this time but also a demonstration of his own personally harrowing experience of the Bosnian war; which resonates from each image individually.