Secunda is a British painter and sculptor who has traveled around ISIS-ravaged parts of the Iraq with the help and protection of the Peshmerga (Kurdish soldiers), and more recently with the support of the Iraq Culture Minister, the State Board of Antiquities and Heritage, and the Iraqi army. The purpose of Secunda’s travels is to make molds of ISIS inflicted damage from ancient artifacts and buildings, to “capture the texture of geopolitical violence, with a focus on the destruction of culture”. Secunda superimposes the ISIS damage on casts of ancient objects – creating an unsettling impression that the ancient works have been shot and smashed. Secunda’s process has been called a “carefully crafted record of cultural violence” which “opens a chilling window into the widespread destruction of historical and cultural artwork.”
Secunda and Long-Sharp met in London several years ago. By happenstance, their paths crossed again last year in New York the night before Long-Sharp was scheduled to participate in a panel discussion on social justice and art. It was then that Long-Sharp saw in person Secunda’s ISIS Bullet Hole Paintings – paintings which quickly became a subject of her next-day remarks. With the blessing of Thomas Jaeckel Gallery (Secunda’s New York representative), Long-Sharp snapped up the opportunity to offer Secunda his second solo exhibit in the United States (for this body of work). Said Long-Sharp, “I was reminded of how artists and journalists have put their lives on the line to bring to the public information and images of war. Secunda literally risks his life to make an accurate record of a type of damage left by these wars.” According to Secunda, “In destroying these ancient pieces of culture, ISIS is disassembling and dismantling our cultural DNA.” In effect, he says, “They’re trying to delete the past.”
When asked why he undertakes these efforts, Secunda’s response is clear: “I felt quite clearly that the thing that I could contribute was a record...it had to be recorded. It was too big, I couldn’t not do it.” He believes that “the most valuable thing artists can do is… record the world around themselves in some way”.
The Bullet Hole Paintings are made entirely of paint -- no canvas, no boards. The exhibition will also include drawings made with indigo (a color commonly used in regional textiles) or drawn with ink made from the burned wood from a church used by ISIS as regional headquarters (before they set fire to it in 2016). Ten percent of any sales will go to Kind Aid (the Kurdish region orphan charity in Iraq).