Tate unveils fighter jet artwork

By Tim Masters
Entertainment correspondent, BBC News

  • Published
Jaguar jet
Image caption,
Both aircraft in the exhibition were purchased from the Ministry of Defence

Two fighter jets that have seen active service have been turned into art in a new commission for Tate Britain.

Fiona Banner's work sees a Sea Harrier suspended vertically from floor to ceiling like a trussed bird.

In an adjoining gallery, a stripped and polished Jaguar jet plane lies belly-up on the floor.

Banner's past works include unedited descriptions of movies, including war films and pornographic tales.

The use of fighter jets recurs throughout her portfolio.

Harrier and Jaguar - commissioned for the Duveens Galleries - is her largest work to date. The two aircraft create a striking juxtaposition with the Tate's neo-classical surroundings.

Banner's fascination with fighter planes can be traced back to a moment in her childhood when she was walking in the Welsh hills with her father.

"It was so quiet and so beautiful and then suddenly out of nowhere came this Harrier jump jet and completely ripped up the sky and utterly changed the moment," she said.

"We were left with the words knocked out of us, wondering how something that was such a monster could be so beautiful."

Asked if she was a pacifist, Banner said: "The piece is more about our ambivalence to war and how on one level we loathe it and on another level we celebrate it."

Image caption,
Banner made pencil drawings of fighter aircraft at art school

The Sea Harrier, which is suspended from the ceiling by its tail, made its first flight in 1988. It was taken out of service after a crash-landing at Yeovilton in 2000.

Banner has hand-painted the aircraft's surface with feather markings.

The Sepecat Jaguar saw action in the Gulf in Operation Desert Storm in 1990-91.

At the time, one of the pilots painted the cartoon character Buster Gonad and his Unfeasibly Large Testicles (from Viz comic) on the nose of the plane. The aircraft is last believed to have flown in 2006.

Banner has stripped the aircraft to reveal a mirrored, metallic surface.

"The Jaguar's polish is important because you see yourself reflected in it - you can't detach yourself from the object," she said.

Banner refused to say how much the two aircraft had cost to obtain.

In 1994, the artist created a "wordscape" in which she transcribed the Tom Cruise film Top Gun into a frame-by-frame written account.

Harrier and Jaguar runs until 3 January at Tate Britain.

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