Press Release: 1917 to 2017 – Artist Marks 100 Years of Mesopotamian Warfare


Ghostly sculptures highlight how modern-day battles for Mosul and Baghdad carry echoes of a clash of empires in the First World War

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Image by Colin Hattersley
Image by Colin Hattersley

The modern day struggles for Baghdad and Mosul have been vast and bloody – a Spring Fling sculptor highlights a forgotten conflict in this region, exactly 100 years ago.

Recent commemorations of the Great War have often focused on the Western Front, but Mark Gibbs wants us to remember that it was a truly global conflict.

In 1917 the struggle for Mesopotamia, which takes in parts of modern Iraq and Syria, was reaching a crescendo as the British Empire pushed back the armies of the Ottoman Empire.

These events, lamented by Rudyard Kipling in a poem written that year and called Mesopotamia, are recalled in some Mark’s extraordinary and ghostly sculptures.

Among them are works showing an Australian soldier on a skeletal horse made largely from twisted copper wire. Another, more reminiscent of the trench warfare in Western Europe, is of a soldier leading a horse-drawn sledge piled with artillery shells across a muddy battlefield.

World War One was the first industrialised war, but horses remained vital, both for pulling loads and as cavalry mounts. Although largely obsolete on the static Western Front, cavalry was used extensively in the Middle East.

Mark said: “We often forget just how much of the world was torn apart by the First World War. Far beyond the battlefields of France and Belgium there were troops from every part of the British Empire engaged in struggles for places like Mesopotamia. 

“In response, my new work focuses on the relationship between man and horse in these harsh conditions. I want the pieces to be both a tribute and an unsettling reminder of how conflict can roll on through the centuries.”

In addition to the war-themed pieces, Mark produces others, often featuring animals and sometimes ships. Many are influenced by archaeology and have the feel of ritual objects.

Mark, from Carlisle, has been selected for Spring Fling as part of the Neighbours Scheme which allows artists and makers from regions bordering Dumfries and Galloway to take part.

Spring Fling is Scotland’s premier visual arts and craft open studios event and will see 93 artists and makers take part across Dumfries and Galloway from 27-29 May.

Mark will be among the exhibitors at Solway House, The Crichton, in Dumfries.

His work is incredibly detailed, often with fine anatomical detail, and one of his larger works can require up to a kilometre of wire.

Joanna Macaulay, Events and Exhibitions Manager for Upland Arts Development, which runs Spring Fling, said: “Our panel of selectors were very impressed by the detail and quality of Mark’s work and because it is so unusual. We are sure that lots of visitors will be fascinated to visit Solway House to see him and the other Spring Fling artists exhibiting there.”

For full details of everyone taking part in Spring Fling see the website at  Contact Mark on 07780 673337 or see the website at