Shaun Gladwells project references a historic event that took place one hundred years ago, connecting Israeli history to the history of Australia: The Battle of Beersheba of 31 October 1917, in which the 4th and 12th Australian Light Horse Brigades, fighting with the Allied Forces, defeated the forces of the Ottoman Empire. The outcome of this battle the British rule of Palestine was to affect political reality of the region for years to come. It is also considered the last important battle to actively involve mounted infantry.
Shaun Gladwells works focus not on the battle but on its less central protagonists the horses. Gladwell has had a longstanding interest in the horse as a historical and cultural image and in the ways by which it is connected to myths of war, heroism and masculinity. An early performance and video work of his was inspired by Jean-Michel Basquiats Riding with Death (1988), in which the horse and its rider are depicted as skeletons. He has also engaged in a variety of modern horse substitutes, such as the skateboard, bicycle and motorbike, and the risk of death involved in riding them.
The works on view at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art
are based on photographs taken in Australia and at the Negev Desert in Israel, featuring the horses life-cycle from birth to old age. Like the horses that took part in the Battle of Beersheba a century years ago, brought over from Australia with the soldiers after they had been trained in the Australian desert for the climate conditions prevailing in Asia and Africa, the protagonist of Gladwells works is a Waler horse, albeit one born in the Negev Desert. It is depicted alongside and within the monuments erected in its memory. The photographs are being screened as videos and through virtual-reality glasses. In addition, the exhibition features a 3-D print of a Roman horse-and-rider sculpture, both somewhat damaged. Shifting ones perspective from man to horse provokes thought about wider issues such as mans relationship with nature, which runs the gamut from exploitation and domestication to empathy and admiration.
Shaun Gladwell studied at Sydney College of the Arts, The University of Sydney.
He undertook postgraduate research at the College of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales (now UNSW Art & Design), Sydney.
In 2001-2 he conducted associate research at Goldsmiths College, London and has since had solo exhibitions in significant institutions.
In 2009 Gladwell travelled to Afghanistan as the official Australian War Artist, and he has twice featured at the Venice Biennale: