Transforming the art of war
I want my art to give an insight into arms fairs, where weapons are treated as products.
The business of conflict
Jill, a senior lecturer in the Leeds School of Arts, has been drawing arms fairs since 2007 under the guise of a ‘war artist’. After eventually being challenged by a security guard, who noticed that she was drawing the dealers as well as the weapons, she took drastic measures to ensure she could continue to shine a spotlight on the secretive world of the international arms trade. Creating a fake persona, company and website, Jill has continued to attend these events and capture the rituals of marketing, hospitality and dress, played out against a backdrop of violent weaponry.
She says: “I have been involved in the peace movement since the 1980s when I first moved to Leeds as a student. My work and my drawing has always been about peace and activism, and for a long time I would demonstrate with other protestors outside the arms fairs. I was frustrated by the fact that war art mostly concentrates on zones of conflict, such as Iraq and Afghanistan, and wanted to share an insight into the arms fairs, where weapons are sold to repressive regimes and countries involved in aggressive wars, fuelling conflict.”
Jill’s unique approach to art also informs her teaching, where she encourages her students to be bold. “My art practice and research are fundamental to my teaching,” she adds. “I encourage my students to think critically and to follow their hunches and their conscience about what matters, and also to be aware of the power of art. I think art can give insights into situations that other methods can’t.”