In A Field South Of Brussels

A few weeks ago we were asking the question ‘why are two artists from London tramping around in fields 14 miles south of Brussels’.



At 5pm on 18th of June we jumped on Eurostar heading to Brussels, at 10.30 the next morning we were on a train to Braine-l’Alleud to join the crowds walking the two miles to the site of the Battle of Waterloo (1815), and for the following two days we were to wander, cameras in hand exploring the sights and sounds of Waterloo 2015.

Part of the French Encampment

Part of the French Encampment

The answer to ‘why were we there?’ First of all we were there to enjoy the event, but also to collect photos & video for a future piece of work – but over the two days we roamed the site we realised that it defined many of the interests that drive our art. After three weeks what remain in the memory are the scale and above all the curious mixture of fact and fiction posed by the event (both of which are  major ingredients of our work).

We are all now living in the ‘computer age’ – even if we don’t possess a pc or smartphone the world around us is run by computer and the individual is monitored and recorded from afar. As computer literate artists we spend a lot of time researching and surfing the ‘net’ for ideas, exploring and matching various fragments of information – some proven facts and some more imaginative – which we splice together to create surreal metaphors that question the true nature of our ‘virtual/real existence. Like many internet researchers our overriding conclusion is that the integrity of web facts is often highly questionable, but instead of seeing that as a negative in society we embrace it as the dominant metaphor of contemporary life and the main subject of our work.


An Old Soldier Nurses his Wounds

In our work history often provides a stable structure within which we weave an alternative narrative of fiction through the fragments of static fact. The re-enactment of Waterloo perfectly illustrates our interest in the subject, mixing fact and fiction, reality and the virtual.

A common perception of overweight middle-aged men dressed in ill-fitted ‘costumes’ playing soldiers with the plastic reality of a computer game was far from the truth, this was no village fete. The encampments, arena and various assorted museums/shops/cafes were scattered over the original battlefield covering approximately four square miles.

Throughout the two days there were moments that created a curious sense of time freezing (often they were mundane experiences away from the main events), such as seeing a group of French gunners struggling at the side of the main Brussels road to hitch their 6lb cannon onto their horse drawn lumber, or the 300 plus French infantry marching up and down an isolated field practising their drill while their officers shouted at them. But some of the more memorable were found walking around the encampments listening to the multitude of foreign languages bursting into song or joking over their hot meals prepared in a massive pot suspended over an open fire.


Enjoying Lunch in the French Encampment

Walking back along the road from the French encampment with thousands of other spectators, tired and eager to find our places in the arena for the first evening battle we were stopped by police who’d blocked the road creating a partition stretching from one side to the other – leading into the arena. The crowd tired and agitated, started shouting.

Looking over the head of the guy in front I realised where we were – at the gate of the farmhouse ‘La Haye Sainte’ (a building at the centre of the battle). a group of Prussian gunners appeared dragging a massive cannon through the farmhouse gates across the road, past the now inquisitive crowd and into the arena entrance, this was followed by a company of infantry.

Cannons in the Allied Encampment

Cannons in the Allied Encampment

I managed to peer past the heads to the interior of the farm – there were hundreds of soldiers with 20 or more cannons, groups of infantry and assorted civilians all were waiting to cross into the arena. Even though we were tired and wanted to move on I was struck by the spectacle – the thought that 200 years before a similar scene would have been played out, watching the sheer physical effort to move some of those heavy cannon created a lot of respect for those taking part – providing a truly human experience that links to the truth laying at the foundation of our history.

Walking around the camps, spending time watching them complete their daily chores, cook their food, practice their drills and clean equipment we noticed the camaraderie  developing between them (produced by their shared experience and resembling the cadence of true combatants) encouraged and emphasized in the variety of languages present had produced an undeniable, substantial and effective ‘reality’ to the occasion.

The Prussians Arrive

The Prussians Arrive

Relaxing in the allied Encampment

Relaxing in the Allied Encampment

The Battle of Waterloo fought in this space on the 18th of June 1815 stands as a defining moment in European history, ending twenty years of possibly the first truly global  war and laying the ground for one hundred years of peace.

With approximately 72,000 French, 68,000 British & Allied & 50,000 Prussian soldiers competing for four square miles of land 20 mins train ride from Brussels this was to be the bloodiest battle to date – only to be surpassed by the slaughter of WW1 one hundred years later. Over the 9 hours of fighting 50,000 would be killed & wounded, and as evening came Napoleon’s future for France would come to an end.

There is a mere fraction of reenactors (approx 6,000) compared to the original participants, but when you add the thousands of spectators (approx 200,000 over the weekend) it comes close to the original footfall. Both armies in 1815 were comprised of many nationalities – the fact that this event (the biggest of its type) managed to assemble so many nationalities just added to the layers of reality & depth of experience.


The Road from Braine l'Allude

The Road from Braine-l’Alleud

It appears that whether you immerse yourself in computer games, social media, TV or take part in events like this there is a growing reliance on a virtual form of life that adds to and enhances our reality. The need to create alternate versions of ourselves, to lift us from the mundane is adjusting our experience of reality – if you spend half of your life ‘online’ or living as an alternate version of yourself then that will partly define your reality.

As we left the battle late on Saturday evening it was as if a fog had descended over the area, the smoke from the guns that had blurred the battlefield for the past half hour (eloquently rendering the confusion of Napoleonic warfare) had spread for miles – we could still see the flames from the cannons lighting the mist as we joined the thousands heading back to their own versions of reality.

The scale was EPIC!

The scale was EPIC!

The sheer physical number of participants, their dedication and mixture of nationalities raised the event far beyond the common garden variety of home grown historical re-interpretation, creating a truly epic scale and produced a cinematic effect blurring the lines between fiction and reality.

On a personal note I really enjoyed the WaterlooTrois beer – I thoroughly recommend!

Here’s a collection of some of our images.































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‘Lucy in the Sky’ at Transition Gallery, London

Last night was the opening of a new exhibition at Transition GalleryLucy in the Sky‘, and we are happy to have been included.

Curated by artist Corinna Spencer the show brings together the work of five artists:    Emma Cousin,  Aly Helyer,  Adam Kelly,  Neil Metzner & us.

Here’s a few images from last night:

Corinna directing trafic

Corinna directing trafic

Karl England & Paul Cole support the building

Karl England & Paul Cole support the building

Neil Metzner

Neil Metzner

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour

William Blake, Auguries of Innocence


Emma Cousin

Emma Cousin

With a whole cosmology of mega data and imagery now readily available at the touch of a screen, artists are free to make up their own worlds, hybridising versions of reality, mixing it up, musing, humouring, personalising and confounding as they go. Lucy in the Sky presents five very personal visions of the stuff that surrounds us.

5 June – 5 July 2015
Preview Thursday 4 June 2015, 6-9pm   Gallery Open: Friday – Sunday 12-6pm

Adam Kelly

Adam Kelly

Aly Helyer

Aly Helyer









Broughton & Birnie  (AKA. Brobirn)

Broughton & Birnie
(AKA. Brobirn)

Mentioned in ‘Paul’s Art World‘ Friday, 5 June 2015 ‘CHOICES UP NOW

by Paul Carey-Kent



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Things to look out for in 2015

Here’s a few exhibitions we are looking forward to…..

1. fig-2 a new art exhibition every week for 2015, starts 5th January at ICA studio – for background information here’s an article from the Guardian 

Fatoş Üstek, curator of Fig-2

Fatoş Üstek, curator of Fig-2


2. Wilhelm Sasnal‘Take Me To The Other Side’   15th January-21st February, at Sadie Coles 

Wilhelm Sasnal at Sadie Coles

Wilhelm Sasnal at Sadie Coles

3. Katy Moran Parasol Unit – 15th January – 8th March

Katy Moran, 'Beautiful Man', 2013

4. David AltmejdModern Art – 23rd January – 14th February

David Altmejd

David Altmejd

5. Luc Tuymans ‘The Shore’ David Zwirner,  30th January – April 2nd

6. Marlene Dumas ‘The Image as Burden’    Tate Modern,                                     5th February – 10th May

Helena’s Dream, Marlene Dumas

7. History is Now – Seven Artists Take on Britain’  Hayward Gallery,             10th February – 26th April

8. ‘Magnificent Obsessions – The Artist as Collector’ – Barbican,                                  12th February – 19th May



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Its been a whole year since our last post, and to mark this occasion here’s some images from the last couple of days…

Unhappy bouncer at Winter Wonderland

Unhappy bouncer at Winter Wonderland

2014-12-30 15.33.10

We took to the High Life


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Met some fashion victims


2015-01-01 10.52.00

Subliminal message


2015-01-01 10.58.37

We never tire of SteamPunk


2015-01-01 11.07.06

The Americans arrive


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The locals are impressed


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Good to see child labour laws are ignored


2015-01-01 11.52.52

You’re never too old…apparently


2015-01-01 11.53.50

Lady steaming


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We were teenagers when this parade started


2015-01-01 12.02.51

Are you sure this is the okey cokey?


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Reality hits as we enter the studio


2015-01-02 11.59.07

great to be back with old friends


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We’ve just returned home from our first day in the studio this year – it’s good to be back.

To get us back on track here’s a photo of the watercolour we put in the Lion & Lamb gallery in December.

Lion & Lamb

Space Invader in The Lion & Lamb

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Directors Cut

Last night was the pv of ‘Directors Cut – Chiara Williams | Boa Swindler’ – with artists & directors Debra Wilson & Chiara Williams showing their recent work and displaying the powerful characters behind the success of WW Gallery, here’s a short video from the event.

Show continues from 30TH OCTOBER – 30TH NOVEMBER 2013 at
WW GALLERY, 34/35 Hatton Garden, London, EC1N 8DX

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Sluice Art Fair 2013

On Monday we sadly took away our work from the Sluice Art Fair 2013 in Bermondsey, while representing WW Gallery at the fair we had a great time, made new friends, connected with old friends and chatted to hundreds of excited visitors. The sadness is that it was over so quickly – but we look forward to next years, great work Karl EnglandBen Street & all the Sluice team.

Here’s a short video of our weekend

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About Face at WW Gallery

Last night WW Gallery hosted the opening of ‘About Face’ – featuring artists Mariana Hahn, Jarik Jongman & Sarah Ludemann & curated by MOMENTUM Berlin (Rachel Rits-Volloch and Cassandra Bird) With performance and video work on the theme of destruction.

Here’s a short video of last night’s event.

The show runs from 11 – 20 October so don’t miss it!

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WW Gallery Solo Award PV

After a week of computer viruses we can finally show a short video of WW Gallery’s PV for their Solo Award 2013 featuring artists:

Harriet Aston (shortlisted)
Trevor Banthorpe
Maria Konstanse Bruun
Clare Burnett
Zoe Crosse
Laura Fitzgerald (shortlisted)
Nigel Grimmer
Donald Harding (shortlisted)
Kirsty Harris
Nikolai Ishchuk
HaYoung Kim
Bryan Lavelle
Amy Moffat
Daniella Norton (shortlisted)
Taz Pollard
Michael Radford
Anna Reading
Connie Sides (shortlisted)
Yuhwa Son
Sophia Starling
Claire Undy
Nicola Wallis
Rachel Wilberforce (shortlisted)
Kim W. Wilson
Sarah Kate Wilson
Ben Woodeson

The show runs until the 24th of August (the day the winner will be announced!) so don’t miss out!

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The Ubermeister of Lounge – Mr Frank Sanazi!!

Frank Sanazi delivers ‘Third Reich’ to a rapturous wellcome!

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