In February 2010 the Suffolk-based artist, Jules George, was sponsored by the Ministry of Defence to visit Afghanistan as an officially sanctioned war artist embedded with 2 Yorks (Green Howards), and the Household Cavalry Regiment, both part of the 11th Light Brigade. The results of his time in Afghanistan with the British Army is currently on view in a selling exhibition at Bonhams
in New Bond Street, from Friday July 22nd to August 5th. Viewing times are from 10am to 4pm Monday to Friday (no weekend viewing). Prices range from £180 for prints to £16,000 for paintings of landscapes.
Speaking about the exhibition Jules George said: I dont suppose that there are that many images of the stunning landscapes of Afghanistan for sale in the UK. Among= his favourite images from the collection are two massive landscapes, lots 62 and 65, each priced at £16,000. The landscape illustrated in these paintings is of Musa Qalah Mountain, known as Mount Doom. The breathtaking beauty of this scene belies its recent history. In December 2007 a fierce battle took place to recapture Musa Qalah from the Taliban, involving US, British and Afghan forces. Both 2 Yorks and the Household Cavalry played a prominent part in this battle. In the spring of 2010, following President Obamas well publicised surge, Musa Qalah was handed over to the US Marines.
George says that the contrast between the peaceful landscapes seen in these paintings and the bloody battle that took place there is part of what makes these pictures so special to him.
Writing about the Exhibition, General Julian Thomson, military historian and former Royal Marines officer who, as a brigadier, commanded 3 Commando Brigade during the Falklands War, says: Jules Georges collection of Afghanistan paintings is aptly named, Into the Valley. During his time in Afghanistan attached to the 2nd Yorkshires (Green Howards) operating in Helmand he was struck by the contrast between the stunning landscape, the fertile valleys, often teaming with life, and the ever-present shadow of death. These two contradictory facets of the campaign in Afghanistan are arrestingly conveyed in his work.
The works range in price from £180 to several thousand. The artist has pledged to donate a percentage of all sales to the charity Combat Stress, Britains leading charity which specialises in the mental health care of ex-service men and women. Bonhams will match this contribution. Sketching on the move and under fire was stressful and required a quick learning curve, George says. The experience has suited the raw energy evident in his signature documentary style which has taken him around the world. His exhibition promises to attract a wide variety of interest.
George comments: Any preconceptions I had before going to Afghanistan were based entirely on what I had seen in the newspapers and on television. But the reality was completely different. The stunning beauty of the landscape and medieval Afghan life, overcast, by the deathly shadow of war. Constantly youre pulled between the two: the contrast is simply incredible.
My work tried to convey the experience of what it is like to be on the frontline, the elements of fear and energy, the camaraderie and the determination of the troops. Because for every setback, for every friend injured, that makes them more determined to succeed. I have huge respect for these men and women.
While in Helmand, he went out on foot patrol, facing the challenge of walking, watching his step for improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and drawing at the same time. On a subsequent patrol, George accompanied the Household Cavalry Regiment north to Musa Qaleh and to an outlying military post (PB Talibjan). It was there where he was caught up in a fire fight with Taleban militants, who had laid IEDs for the patrol. One of them just missed the vehicle he was travelling in but two other vehicles were hit. On this occasion there were no serious casualties.