Exhibition - HOFA Gallery London
25 November 2021- 9 DECEMBER 2021
“I see the AK-47 as a blank canvas. I know the gun well, I’ve shot it, I’ve been shot at by it, I can strip it down,
I can fire it but the only moment I get the realization that it’s a weapon is when it arrives at the studio still covered
in gun grease. Once I clean it and begin working on it, the fact that it’s a weapon disappears, and it becomes
about beauty.” Bran Symondson
HOFA Gallery proudly presents The Art to Disarm, a solo exhibition by British artist and documentary photographer Bran Symondson. This will be his first solo show in the UK since 2011 and the only time he has brought together works across his diverse oeuvre. It offers a unique chance to consider his practice in its entirety. The exhibition takes a timely look back on his personal experiences of Afghanistan both as a member of the British Army Special Forces in 2008 and as a photographer embedded with the Afghan National Police in 2010. It includes personal memorabilia from Symondson’s time in the army and photographs he shot during the period, alongside pieces demonstrating the evolution of his practice as a sculptor. The recent fall of Afghanistan inspired him to revisit his archive, create new works and present this reflexive and poignant exhibition. “With the recent news, many ex-army friends were reaching out to me which inspired me to look through my hard drive. I was so shocked by how rich and diverse the images were, there were so many small and forgotten moments.” Bran Symondson Using ethically sourced butterflies and emotive site-specific objects that hark back to his experiences of place and conflict, Symondson creates stunning pieces with decommissioned AK-47s as the canvas. Initially
known for his reportage photography that appeared in The Sunday Times and GQ, his creative output has developed far beyond this with the AK-47 sculptures being collected globally by the likes of highly acclaimed artist Jake Chapman, Elton John and the Prince of Bahrain. Symondson’s unique artworks derive from a simple premise: taking something of fear and loathing and turning it into something of beauty and intrigue.
Bran Symondson, Beat of a Wing, 2019 “When you take a photograph, at the time you don’t realize the weight of it. Time has a great way of making
those images more precious.” Bran Symondson Each AK-47 has a narrative that is told through the meticulous craftsmanship of adorning the weapon with various objects and enhancing it with bespoke handmade bullets containing commodities related to its individual story.
The guns he works with are largely sourced from war zones, many have seen battle and are marked with tell-tale scars that attest to their former lives. Also on display will be Symondson’s new motion-driven NFT works, which depict AK-47s with ‘ecosystems’ growing on them symbolizing mother nature eclipsing man's mistakes. Another new direction is his recent ‘DIE 4 U’ sculptures which harness the ‘Love Heart’ sweet as a motif, encased within many bullets to question the flippancy with which actual violence may be considered.
His work explores themes of conflict and violence in a sensitive and thought-provoking manner drawn from personal experience, beyond this there are also subtle themes embedded throughout the work.
He considers the environmental impact of the arms trade through the use of native materials from certain geographical locations as well as utilizing butterflies to celebrate the beauty and fragility of the natural world.
He is a studious collector, gathering pieces of the Berlin Wall, African sand, precious stones, and opium seeds among many other substances during his travels. These are included in the work, hidden delicately in
the gun’s bullet casings. It is knowledge of these details, gained through spending time with the physical works, that bring his pieces to life.
Showing a uniquely personal perspective on a timely topic, Symondson’s poignant exhibition presents an original approach to conflict, war, and violence while inviting the viewer to look beyond the media and their preconceptions. Symondson invites us to try and understand his lived experience, the complexity of the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan, and the impacts of violence more widely on humanity and the natural environment.
Lisa Baker or Bella Bonner-Evans
Lisa Baker Associates Ltd
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org | email@example.com
Tel +44 (0)7508 057344 or + 44 (0)7768 310038
Bran Symondson: The Art to Disarm
26 November 2021- 9 December 2021
Private View 6-9pm 25 November
Media Preview and Artist Photocall 11am 25 November
11 Bruton Street, Mayfair, London W1J 6PY
Monday - Friday 10:00 - 19:00
Saturday 13:00 - 19:00, Sunday 12: 00 - 17:00
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