The brutal conflicts – “the Troubles” - which broke out in Northern Ireland at the end of the 20th century was rooted in this bitter sectarian division, seized upon by self-appointed paramilitary factions, from both sides, as a pretext for acts of terrorism which they often carried out in the name of religion or patriotism, or whatever “cause” they could claim. More than 3,500 people (mostly civilians) were killed during “the Troubles” in Northern Ireland (population 1.5 million). To put the affect of this into context, one has to imagine 100,000 violent deaths, during peacetime, in a population of a country the size of Italy. Add to this the many thousands of innocent people injured, bereaved, and left to mourn…
I had come to spend apart of my life in Italy, where I became acutely conscious of the unspeakable war crimes committed by Fascist and Nazi regimes during World War 2, notably in and around Florence and Vicchio. This became the spark which led to the creation of this sculpture, called “Life and Death”.
In 2010 Paddy Campbell was asked by Roberto Izzo, Mayor of Vicchio, to create a sculpture to be installed on a pedestal at the front of an existing large monumental obelisk in the centre of the town, which had been erected in 1923 to commemorate the fallen of World War 1. The figure of a large bronze soldier (6m high) occupied the pedestal for 20 years, but was melted down during World War 2, due to the shortage of metals, and used for the production of weapons and equipment. In an ironic twist, Paddy Campbell used a fusion of bronze with metal remnants of World War 2, which had been found in the mountains around Vicchio, to make the two figures of “Life and Death”. Hence, one could say that the soldier of 1923 had been recycled. It transpired that the figures of “Life and Death” were not destined to be installed on the pedestal of the obelisk, but at an adjacent place in the centre of Vicchio, where they could represent all the victims of war and terrorism, including the innocent ones who survived to suffer on
As under the Nazi regime in Italy sectarian violence in Ireland was justified by perpetrators in the guise of religion, ideology, and patriotism (“… the last resort of the scoundrel” – Samuel Johnson). Such terrible violence is the genesis of this sculpture “Life and Death”, which Paddy Campbell created not just in memory of all those who died as a result of war and terrorism, but especially in recognition of the tragic and often heroic role played by those who were sentenced to live out the remainder of their lives without their loved ones.