Putting yourself in the moment – 100 years ago

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A new exhibition at Batley Art Gallery will uncover a different perspective on the great tragedy of those who left for the trenches, never to return.

The show will present the war through the eyes of today’s teenagers, reflecting upon their situation had they been born a century earlier.

A teenager in 1914 would have seen a third of their friends die during that four-year period, while those who did survive would have been physically injured and mentally scarred.

Lost Generation, an Arts Council-funded initiative by artist Andy Farr and the Batley School of Art, wants to make this relevant to today’s young people.

The paintings in the exhibition use archive photographs and other famous works of art in creative new ways.

Artist Andy Farr has taken images of the students at Batley School of Art and placed them in the pictures so that they take on the roles of the young people during the war – becoming rag sorters, munitions workers and soldiers.

“For this project my goal has been to make current teenagers realise that this would have been them,” he said.

“Black and white images from the last century can be seen as irrelevant to today’s young people, but putting them into those images enables them to connect with the lives and experiences of their peers from the past.”

One piece was inspired by an image of the Dewsbury Ordnance Depot in 1917. The original photo shows women sorting through the uniforms sent back from the front to be recycled in the mills.

In the new version of this image, artist Andy has replaced the original women with students from Batley School of Art.

Another striking piece is based on a 1964 painting by Belgian surrealist painter Rene Magritte. The idea of student Harrelson Varley, the new work replaces the apple in the original painting with a poppy, musing on the fallen – and how the poppy now represents mass identities.

Batley School of Art course leader Clare Grace said: “At the entrance of Batley School of Art there is a WWI memorial. To our students they are probably just a list of names, but we want those names to become young men and live again for students now and in the future.

“Through working with Andy Farr the students have produced a variety of work to explore WWI. The artwork produced reflects on then and now to enable students to relate their lives to that of the life of the soldiers and their families.

“The project encouraged the students to engage with WWI issues, while also enabling them to develop their skills and gain a valuable insight into how a professional painter works.”

The exhibition, which features of a mix of painting and sculpture by the artist and students at BSA, opens on Sunday.