Published Date: 03 December 2008
By Tim Cornwell
FAMILIES of Scottish soldiers killed in Iraq yesterday backed an artist's campaign for commemorative stamps to be issued carrying the faces of their lost loved ones.
Queen and Country, a work by the Turner Prize-winning war artist Steven McQueen, went on show in Edinburgh yesterday as part of a national tour. It is a large oak cabinet with 120 sliding drawers showing sheets of stamps featuring the portraits of slain service personnel. There are 136 commemorated so far, and McQueen wants the Royal Mail to make the stamps official.Carol Paterson, from Fife, lost her son, Scott "Casper" Kennedy, 20, a private in the Black Watch, when he and two other soldiers were caught in a bomb blast in June last year.She said: "I think it's lovely to see their faces. It would be even lovelier to see them on a proper postage stamp."The photograph of her son that McQueen used is an army picture taken when he passed out at the Catterick base in Yorkshire. "It's just like seeing him again," his mother said. The Imperial War Museum commissioned McQueen as artist for the Iraq conflict in 2003, and he spent six days at the UK base in Basra. The Art Fund, an independent charity, bought the resulting work, Queen and Country, for the museum. So far, more than 15,000 signatures have been added to a petition calling for an official set of stamps. A Royal Mail spokeswoman said the " role and sacrifice of the UK's servicemen and women" had featured in special stamps for the army in 2007 and the Royal Air Force in 2008, with the Royal Navy coming in 2009. "Royal Mail receives around 3,000 requests every year for special stamp issues, but only ten subjects can be chosen," she said. "Therefore, it is impossible to accommodate every request."McQueen was not at yesterday's unveiling of the artwork at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. He has been busy promoting his award-winning film, Hunger.Andrew Macdonald, the Art Fund's deputy director, said of Queen and Country: "It really isn't either anti-war or pro-war. It is about our relationship with people who go out and serve with the forces in our name, whether or not we support the conflict."Diane and Walter Douglas, the parents of Lance-Corporal Allan Douglas, who was killed in January 2006, had travelled from their home in Aberdeen to the gallery. Their son was the last Highlanders' casualty recorded in the Edinburgh Castle log book before the Scottish regiments were amalgamated.The couple have written to 10 Downing Street backing the idea of proper stamps. "It's reminding people – when you buy a stamp, you see somebody's face," Mr Douglas said. "We were never for this war anyway. Neither was Allan, but he had no choice. That was it. He had to do his duty. He never believed in it."Mrs Douglas said the artwork had achieved something for men and women who had been killed, including her son."He always said, even before he joined the army, 'One of these days I'll be famous'," she said. Margaret Thomson slid out the drawer showing her son Robert's picture, taken at his Basra Palace base, astride a camouflaged American Harley Davidson motorcycle. He was killed just a few yards away. "It's very personal, it's very lovely. You just see him there – for a split second, you forget that he's dead, then you remember why you're here, and he is dead," she said. "They do stamps with a robin on it, a wren on it. Why wouldn't you allow that? I can't understand the politics of it. If people don't want to buy them because they don't agree with the war, fair enough."PROFILESteve McQueen, born in London in 1969, works in London and Amsterdam. He won the Turner Prize in 1999 with a film that included a homage to a famous stunt by the silent star Buster Keaton. In 2003, he was named an official war artist in Iraq. Now his international profile will rise further when he represents Britain at the Venice Biennale next year, the most important date in the 2009 art world's calendar.With exhibitions in Paris, Vienna and Japan, his fame has extended to film. In May this year, his feature film, Hunger, the story of IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands, won the prestigious Camera d'Or award at the Cannes Film Festival.