Marking a century of Mesopotamian arfare

Dumfries and Galloway’s Spring Fling will feature the haunting sculptures of World War One horses and soldiers by Carlisle-based sculptor Mark Gibbs.

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

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

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 of Mark’s extraordinary and ghostly sculptures.

Among them are works showing an Australian soldier on a skeletal horse made from twisted copper wire. Another, reminiscent of the trench warfare in 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 addition to the war-themed pieces, Mark produces others, often featuring animals and sometimes ships. His work is incredibly anatomically detailed and one of his larger works can require up to a kilometre of wire.

You can see these striking sculptures at Solway House, The Crichton, Dumfries, on May 27-29.