Shot through the art: Artist Carl McCrow on the conflict of exhibiting guns

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

 

Artists do not normally associate themselves with guns, but Carl McCrow has a more personal reason for enshrining the AK47 as artwork.

Click here or on 'view gallery' for more pictures of gun-inspired AK47 art

What started as an exploration into his boyhood fascination for guns quickly changed direction when his friend Matt Webb an arm and both legs while on tour in Afghanistan in 2011.

Pictures of Matt’s injuries quickly made McCrow re-evaluate his approach to making art out of guns, what he calls his “fetisisation” of the weapon.

“Matt’s injuries were horrific, it made me sick to my stomach and I couldn’t actually do my work it just didn’t feel the same. I thought, I’m not worthy to make artwork out of this while lives are being smashed on the other side of it,” he says.

But ever since McCrow left his job in the City in 2007 to pursue a career as an artist, he has always been internally conflicted about making art out of weaponry.

His interest in guns stemmed from an early age, encouraged by his grandfather who was in the army, but he quickly began to question his own implicit acceptance of the life-ending object.

“I played computer games, I played with guns, I watched Expendables and I love a great war movie. I don’t really feel it’s my fault I enjoy these things, but I realised I’d been watching them like there was no consequence to them,” he says.

At first, McCrow had to come to terms with his decision to make money from selling guns as art.

“For the first year or two I had to justify what I was doing, because I thought that I was being a bit manipulative. So I had to question if what I was doing was sincere,” he says.

When he first bought an AK47 to experiment making art with, he says his fascination for the weapon soon diminished once the gun was close at hand.

“When there was suddenly one in my room I started to reflect on the darker side of it, and I thought maybe that’s what everyone should do,” he says.

At first he experimented with distorting guns aesthetically, by chopping them up and turning them into different three dimensional objects. He then decided to balance the painted AK47s on plinths, as a way of physically showing their “darker side”.

But after Matt’s injury, McCrow realised he couldn’t just make an aesthetic statement about guns- he needed to do something more.

“I enjoyed what I was doing and I turned myself off to some of the problems of guns to create my art. I’d put it on display and discuss it, but when I saw Matt it just brought the human side of it flying straight back and I realised I had to change my game,” he says.

For his next body of work, currently on display in London, McCrow decided to focus more closely on what was happening on the front line across the world.

In partnership with the UN, he has put a collection of painted decommissioned guns from countries such as Iraq, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Cambodia on show.

His exhibition focuses more closely on the commercial value of weaponry and the world economy’s dependency on the arms trade.

For example, he has painted a barcode across the SA80 gun that he has dedicated to Matt, a decommissioned gun of the same type he was shot with.

McCrow has also set up his own charity, One Less Gun, which seeks to destroy one AK47 for every £5 donation received by text. He hopes this will provide a greater underlying ethos to his work.

“We can safely destroy a weapon and then people can say if you’re going to play your computer games or watch movies you can actually do something about it."

Working with the UN and other NGOs including the Mines Advisory Group (MAG) has helped him to address the wider conflict of guns in society, which he hopes will force his viewers to question the implications of weaponry.

“After visiting the mines in Cambodia, you realise that in London we live in such a sanitised environment. We play with these guns and we enjoy the explosions and fun of weaponry, but we’re not really thinking about people living in those environments.”

But despite exposing the physical conflict caused by guns, a central confliction still remains within McCrow.

“My art’s pretty much an indulgence in my own journey in terms of my relationship towards guns. I still think they are abhorrent and on the other hand quite cool.”

Click here for more images of McCrow's work

History Interrupted runs until 21 July at gallery@oxo, Oxo Tower Wharf, London

News

literature

News
Dermot O'Leary attends the X Factor Wembley Arena auditions at Wembley on August 1, 2014 in London, England.

television

News
news
Arts and Entertainment
At this year's SXSW festival in Austin, Texas

Music Why this music festival is still the place to spot the next big thing

Arts and Entertainment
Russell Tovey, Myanna Buring and Julian Rhind Tutt star in Banished
tvReview: The latest episode was a smidgen less depressing... but it’s hardly a bonza beach party
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Game of Thrones will run for ten years if HBO gets its way but showrunners have mentioned ending it after seven

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
Mans Zelmerlow will perform 'Heroes' for Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth (Heida Reed) and Ross Poldark (Aiden Turner) in the BBC's remake of their 1975 original Poldark

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig as James Bond in Skyfall

Mexican government reportedly paying Bond producers for positive portrayal in new filmfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Disney’s flying baby elephant is set to return in live-action format
filmWith sequels, prequels and spin-offs, Disney plays it safe... and makes a pachyderm
Arts and Entertainment
Nazrin with Syf, Camden
photography
News
The QI Elves photographed at the Soho Theatre. They are part of a team of researchers who find facts for the television programme 'QI'.
people
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv0-star review: Sean O'Grady gives it his best shot anyway
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

    The saffron censorship that governs India

    Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
    Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

    How did fandom get so dark?

    Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
    The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
    The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

    Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

    Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
    Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

    Disney's mega money-making formula

    'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
    Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

    Lobster has gone mainstream

    Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
    Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

    14 best Easter decorations

    Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
    Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

    Paul Scholes column

    Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
    Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

    The future of GM

    The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
    Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

    Britain's mild winters could be numbered

    Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
    Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

    The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

    The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
    Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

    Cowslips vs honeysuckle

    It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
    Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss