On a Wing and a Prayer

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Annemarie, my partner, had told me that her father – David Hope-Cross –  had an extensive history with model aircraft and the construction of radio controlled models but I hadn’t expected to see the exquisite workmanship, detail, and love that had gone into a huge collection of planes stored in the garage. Over a number of visits I have documented the planes and tried to capture a sense of the atmosphere and beauty which has led to a number of ideas for projects

The 100 year anniversary of the First World War inspired me re-look at these models as many are from that era and many are associated with the De Havilland Company. The biggest models are Tiger Moths and they have an exquisite attention to detail from the dials in the cockpit, the sheepskin on the pilot’s jacket, through to the aircraft structure itself and logos attached. These models are works of art and I wish I had had the opportunity to meet David and to see them fly.

These are a selection of images of the artistic modelling talent of David Hope-Cross – possibly unique to New Zealand in their precision. They will also be familiar in some shape or form to most of us as part of our 20th Century Western history of flight and war and will resonate emotions we are familiar with and recognise within ourselves.

While researching history for this project I was astonished to discover that of the 14,116 British combat pilots reportedly killed, over 8000 died in training – often in the first 5 days of that training. None were issued with parachutes as it was considered by the authorities less likely for a pilot to then try to bring their aircraft home. To me an indescribable horror and callousness that we need to remember. I have juxtaposed the images and their associations of smoke, fire and oil with the titles of war comics that I read as a young teenager. Titles that trivialise war offset with portraits of pilots in various emotional and psychological states as they “fly”.

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