What happens to the offcuts of the remembrance poppy paper, once James Cropper’s crimson board has been cut into the shape of the commemorative flowers? Usually they will head for recycling, but thousands of these punched sheets now hang in the newly reopened Whitworth art gallery in Manchester, sitting at the heart of internationally renowned artist, Cornelia Parker’s opening solo exhibition.
A reported 18,000 people passed through the gallery’s doors on its opening weekend, many taking their time to walk into ‘War Room’, an immersive installation that sees an entire room bedecked with sheets of paper reclaimed from the Aylesford poppy factory. Simply left with the poignant outline of the missing poppy, Parker’s exceptionally well-received, emotionally charged tribute to fallen soldiers asks a literal question: where have all the flowers gone?
The artist likens the intended experience to that of the op-artists of the 1960s, which saw the likes of Bridget Riley manipulate traditional art techniques to create optical illusions. A ‘walk-in’ piece, visitors are surrounded from floor to ceiling and above their heads, with the same industrial, rhythmic pattern pressed out of the paper. The breath-taking use of an otherwise wasted material has caused equal pride and intrigue amongst staff at James Cropper Paper in Cumbria, which supplies 250km of the red paper, pigmented to match the colour of real poppy petals, to the Poppy Factory every year.
Phil Wild, CEO of James Cropper, comments: “James Cropper supplies the red poppy paper to the Royal British Legion, and support and respect the fantastic job that they do for past and present veterans and their families. It is really interesting to see thought-provoking art and narrative, illuminating the effects of war. In re-using the remnants from poppy production to create War Room, Cornelia Parker poignantly reminds us of all the holes in our lives left behind by those who have been lost in conflict.”
Cornelia Parker, famed for her use of found and overlooked materials, presents War Room as part of an exhibition of new commissions and retrospective installations at The Whitworth until Sunday 31 May 2015.
Images: David Levene