Henningham Family Press
screenprint (metallic gold details)
35cm x 51cm
Pals is the third of four screenprint limited editions that mark the First World War Centenary in 2014. These were commissioned for sale as limited edition screenprints and for reproduction as colour plates in a replica of the Active Service Gospel.
Our depiction of a pals regiment sees a very young man meeting two friends as they embark on what they believe will be an adventure and a ‘rite of passage’ together. Their hats, that resemble halos and are circled with a thin gold band, ultimately obscure their identities, hinting that they will lose their lives and he will lose his two pals. The building he is exiting, Navarino Mansions in Hackney, is a social housing project built in the Arts and Crafts style – an architecture that collapses the ideal of a Merrie English monastery into a housing block. We have heightened this sense of overbearing Pro Patria by rationalising it into the colours of a Union Jack. This is intended to contrast with the instinct to serve and save promoted by the verse – contrasting Father God with Fatherland.
Our colour plates introduce the legacy of the First World War into a document that lived in the trenches. The tragedy of WW1 is absent from its pages because it unfolded around them. SGM asked us to reference the Modernist artwork of the time, exploring the tension between Vorticist individualism and Futurist machine-worship.
We found the Scripture Gift Mission story as interesting as it is moving. Their tradition of offering gospels without any social agenda attached, to anyone who wants or needs one, allowed them to mass produce words of comfort and encouragement without partiality, during a war where words had already been slain by mass-produced propaganda. A staggering 42 million Active Service Gospels were made, a testament to the demand. Some were accepted gladly, others with derision, and some with derision that became devotion. The trenches were a place where some lost faith and others found it. The story of the Active Service Gospel is a little-known history, one that highlights the fact that nothing that comes off a printing press is neutral.
A SGM Lifewords commission
Read more about the project here