; War and peace

As Peter Howson’s visions of war in Bosnia are unveiled in Glasgow

and London, the artist speaks to

Kathleen Morgan about his own personal battle.

l’eter llowson‘s experiences as Britain‘s ol‘ficial war artist in Bosnia sent him hurtling into a personal war/one. Blightcd by severe illness and intense media attention. he stumbled. ol'ten unprotected. into the horrors ol' confiict.

That was his first visit in l‘)‘)3. Weeks after returning to Britain to recover l‘rom his ordeal. he went back for more. intent on disproving the tabloid headlines that he had fled Bosnia. llowson is home now. finishing the last ol‘ about 300 works detailing his experiences. but the war rages on inside his head.

Talking about the exhibitions in London and (ilasgow which will reveal his view of~ Bosnia‘s war. he appears disillusioned. There is no excitement about the forthcoming private unveiling of his work in London's Imperial War Museum he asks why he should bother attending it. since he has done the work he was commissioned to do. The artist renowned for his powerful figurative paintings of a hard. poverty-stricken (ilasgow admits he has been sucked dry by the Bosnia experience: ‘l'm completely wiped out. completer empty.’

During his disastrous first trip to a British base in \'itc/.. llowson was literally put in the front line. The army had little idea what he was doing there and did not know what to do with him. ‘They bungcd the in a l’ortacabin and the toilets were three miles away.. he remembers. Sponsored by '/‘/re 'Ii‘mes and with an eight-titan film crew in tow. llowson was in the public glare. Within weeks he had developed dysentery and. alter three days in a Bosnian hospital. was llown to Britain.

He took with him images ol‘ butchered bodies and desecrated communities. They still haunt him. ‘I hadn't seen a dead body. but to see a mutilated body was incredible.‘ he says. ‘The army were expecting me to get my sketch book out. but l could hardly stand up.‘

Determined to do the job he was enlisted to do. llowson returned for three months last December. It took him until April to put on canvas what he had seen others live and breathe in Bosnia. He believes the experience saved his art and almost destroyed his personal life. ‘l‘m really glad it's over. In a way it‘s been my saving. but it's cost rue dearly in terms ol my family lile.‘

He explains how he had begun l‘eeling trapped by his initial success under the (ilasgow Boys banner: ‘l‘ve been desperate to get away from the ('ilasgow Boy thing. Over the last few years my work was

Bosnian Harvest, an etching by Peter llowson

caricatured. ljust lost the humanity. This was building up in me for years and the Bosnia thing has been a release.‘

He speaks tentatively of moving towards slightly abstract work. leaving behind the heavily outlined figurative art that propelled him to fame. He even hopes to tackle life drawing once the nightmares which have plagued him every night for tnonths leave him. For now. he wants to ignore the commissions awaiting him and concentrate on the life he was l‘oreed to put on hold with his wife and

Bosnian Harvest. an (’.\'/ll/)lll(lll of prints. paintings and drawings by Peter llth'StHl. is at the (i/avguw I’rint Star/in. Sat /7 Sop/~15 ()(t /t (maple/21mm (iv/ti/n'timts at [/18 Imperial War .vl/llfi‘t’lllll. Lam/an and I’lowcrs [fast (Jul/er): Lam/on.

:— Marks of genius

in the dusk of the dimmed gallery lighting, there is something fascinating about examining the handwriting of Michelangelo - ‘The’ Michelangelo: artist, sculptor, architect, sonnet-writer and Renaissance Master. In his Memoir of 16 July 1528, the characters swoop and flick on parchment and the page looks designed instead of just written. Elsewhere, below a sketch for the fortification of Florence, lies a figure hastily outlined in pencil. One project

54 The List 9 —22 September 1994

overlapping with another in his mind or simply a lack of sketching paper?

Billed as the first exhibition on Michelangelo to be staged in Scotland, this show has been shipped

over from the Casa Buonarroti in

; Florence. The house was bought by

Michelangelo in 1508 and transformed

. by his grand nephew a century later

with the addition of frescos by 30 of

the most important artists of the time. Now a museum and gallery commemorating Michelangelo and his

descendants, the Casa Buonarroti is

'= home to the world’s largest collection of Michelangelo drawings.

In this show, the obvious highlights are fifteen sketches for paintings, , architecture and sculptures chosen from the collection. A study for The last Judgment is a swirl of taut

j buttocks and twisting torsos and nearby, a study for Christ In Limbo

reveals Michelangelo’s understanding of the human form and, even in his hastily recorded sketches, his precise and confident hand.

Yet the rest of the exhibition is insubstantial: a sketch fora menu and note written concerning the acquisition of a field are intriguing but not essential viewing. Portraits of Michelangelo’s descendants, a plate bearing the Buonarrotl crest and a bronze replica of Michelangelo’s earliest work combine to make this show a kind of promotional-sized sample of the Florentine museum. On its own, the show is simply a thin slice of Michelangelo memorabilia. (Beatrice Colin)

Michelangelo: an Invitation to Casa Buonarrotl is at the City Art Centre, Edinburgh until Wed 21 Sept.