Burslem School of Art
West Midlands

‘Weapons of Choice’ – David Jewkes

Text by Sean Williams

In his artwork, more particularly his painting, David Jewkes presents us with a challenge, an intriguing dichotomy. The key lies in the use of colour set against the imagery. The colouring is brash, exuberant, almost joyous. Its dazzle serves to partially camouflage what lies beneath.

The core of Jewkes’ iconography is brutal. It refers incessantly to war, yet the presentation is playful and skittish – tanks are merely toys; generals with over-size heads display their ludicrous collection of medals and sit in bath-tubs, oblivious to the reality of the carnage they purport to oversee on our behalf; and this all serves to make Jewkes’ message all the more chilling. Figures, wheels, armoury are all slightly twisted and distorted to add to our discomfort. In our unease we feel we ought to act. This terror should not go on.

The painting surface itself belies something of the battle – a warzone as paint faces off against the massed ranks of canvas, knife and brush. Regardless of motif, this paint belies something of Jewkes’ attitude, having been scraped and re-applied, scratched and interrogated to the point of screaming out its message. It is the barely suppressed anger that makes the work so powerful.

In the drawing entitled ‘Weapons of Choice’ it is the sheer repetition of the motif that is most striking. It is a darkly poetic example of visual synecdoche, the tragedy and horror in battered army boots piled high on army boots. The labour in their depiction coldly echoes our anaesthetised overview of conflict. We are deprived of feeling.

Jewkes has developed a strategy to deal with his own military past, its effect on him, and the more general legacy it continues to leave. These paintings are deeply personal yet universally poignant and resonant. We are confronted with images of war every day of our lives, yet these paintings are haunting, featuring memories and visions passed through the artist’s severe filter. Whereas a photograph shows us telling detail, Jewkes’ painting uncovers and communicates a frightening authenticity.