Berlin-based Scottish artist Andrew Gilbert revels in his ironic exploration of the British empire and its excesses, recreating historic events with a fantastical twist and paying great attention to specific details relating to the British military, such as the uniform and the battalion positions. In his new exhibition at Ten Haaf Projects, he presents works relating to the Battle of Blood River, fought in 1838 between the Boer Voortrekkers and the Zulu army. Describing his subject matter as “a personal obsession”, Gilbert unflinchingly turns the spotlight on the disturbing ethnocentrism of the Voortrekkers, who “won” the war due to their more modern weapons despite being outnumbered, and declared their victory a divine act and sign of God’s protection as they colonised South Africa.
Gilbert’s colourful drawings possess the quality of having been rendered in a manic frenzy: some are portraits of the Zulu royal family and Commandant Andries Pretorius, leader of the Voortrekkers; others make reference to nationalist propaganda from both armies. Through these works, he “describes a certain feeling which creeps over me when I visit European museums… the fetishisation of Africa, the insanity of Western arrogance and colonial violence are just some of the topics I look at.”
Gilbert’s show is on at Ten Haaf Projects from 9 November to 21 December.
Ten Haaf Projects, Laurierstraat 248, 1016 PT Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Images courtesy of the artist and the gallery.