( 2014-2016 )
Touring Exhibition 2014-2016
In 2012, I took part in a series of art workshops exploring issues around Army rehabilitation and life after service, run by contemporary artist Susan Stockwell. Susan encouraged participating veterans to uses a variety of mediums including drawing, sewing and quilting to unlock memories and personal narratives of soldiering and recovery. The Peace Makers art workshops formed part of a two-year collaboration between Stockwell, the National Army Museum, and groups of soldiers and veteran soldiers in UK rehabilitation and support centres.
As a response to the material generated in the workshops, combined with her own historical research, Susan created “Peace Maker’, a mixed media work in the form of a patchwork quilt made from discarded Army blankets and fine silk that she embroidered with quotes from veteran soldiers and other sources. Its form references the long history of soldiers sewing and quilting in the Army, along with the traditions of sharing and storytelling in historical sewing practice.
I was extremely honoured when Susan first approached me about incorporating my original screen print into her work. The National Army Museum referenced my contribution in its first press release: “Central to ‘Peace Maker’ is the work of Michael Crossan. His poignant screen print captures the essence of soldiers at war and acts as a focal point in the centre of the quilt. It is surrounded by dark grey and white swatches, evoking a chess board and the game of war.” After its initial three month run in London, the work toured military museums across the country throughout 2014-2015, after which it was accessioned into the NAM’s collection, creating an important legacy for the project.
This early collaboration was a pivotal one for me. It afforded the opportunity to learn from and collaborate with an established artist as the exhibition took shape over many months, form helpful relationships with NAM curating staff, and take part in subsequent media events and interviews - giving me valuable experience talking about my work in a public forum. Observing Susan’s process and use of historical research would influence my approach to future pieces such as The Long Way Home (see Showcase No 1). I felt very invested in this project, as creating art had been the one constant through my own turbulent years after release from the military, and a mainstay toward rebuilding my life in the years that followed. Piece Makers gave me deeper insight into the connection between artistic expression and healing, with a long-range view toward facilitating workshops myself in the future.