A POWERFUL new exhibition inspired by Glasgow Museums’ World War One collection has been unveiled at Kelvingrove this week.

Scottish artist Christine Borland spent a year in residence at Glasgow Museums Resource Centre, before undertaking an intensive period of experimental making in her Argyllshire studio.

The result is I Say Nothing, a large-scale sculpture which invites viewers to reflect upon both the war, and the world of museum collecting and care.

The artwork was co-commissioned with 14-18 NOW, the UK's arts programme for the First World War centenary, and made possible through the generous support of the Art Fund.

The World War One collection held by Glasgow Museums has grown significantly over the last 100 years.

Throughout her residency, Christine had full access to the city’s state of-the-art collection storage facility, together with the public displays housed in the city’s nine civic museums.

By the end of her research she had narrowed her focus to twelve objects which feature in a companion publication, also called I Say Nothing. (The objects, which include mules’ hooves, ID tags of German soldiers, removed from the battlefield, and intriguing sphagnum moss pillows used in ambulances, when supplies of cotton wool ran low, can be viewed by appointment at Glasgow Museums Resource Centre.)

One object - a simple white ceramic invalid feeder cup, which was an unaccessioned object in a handling kit popular with schools and community projects - particularly fascinated Christine and it became the lynchpin for the artwork.

Using the little-known nineteenth century technique of photo-sculpture, the artist worked with models to document two poses representing the diametrically opposed ways in which the feeder cup was employed – to nurse wounded soldiers during World War One, and to force-feed hunger-striking suffragettes in the years running up to 1914.

“The feeder cup was in a box of objects which goes out to schools for World War One projects, and I liked the fact I could take it out and touch it, I didn’t need gloves on,” says Christine. “The duality was striking – photographs of nurses holding soldiers’ heads as they used it to feed them really tugged on the heart.

“But in the course of my research, I discovered letters from a Glasgow suffragette to her sister. They had both been imprisoned in Holloway in 1912, and they were being given the choice of how they wanted to be force fed. This woman was explaining she had chosen the feeding cup, and she was urging her sister to do the same. It was a horrific image. It really brought home the power of this wee object – and spoke of the complexities behind many aspects of the war and institutional care.”

As part of the commission, Christine travelled to Flanders, where bomb disposal squads still make safe World War One munitions.

There the invalid feeder cup was exploded in a controlled detonation. The fragments form part of the artwork. Transformed, these pieces make a profound statement about meaning, memorialisation and loss.

Chair of Glasgow Life, Councillor David McDonald, said: “I Say Nothing is a bold, thought-provoking contemporary artwork for Glasgow. It is a striking, powerful addition to the city’s art collection. The contradiction presented by the sculpture is certain to re-ignite interest in our World War One collection and stimulate debate and reflection on the nature and history of conflicts old and new.

“Part of nationwide World War I centenary commemorations, Christine Borland’s piece is also a highlight in Glasgow Museums’ programme of events, exhibitions and displays marking this significant anniversary.”

I Say Nothing is on display on the south balcony at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. It is free to view. For more information visit www.glasgowmuseums.com.