Dunkirk Phossils by Charlie Bonallack

Six Dunkirk Phossils on driftwood by Charlie Bonallack

Artist Charlie Bonallack (grandson of BG Bonallack) has made and photographed this collection of Dunkirk Phossils to be shown on The Dunkirk Project:

This series of six handpainted porcelains were interpreted from a selection of photographs combining three personal photographs from Basil Bonallack’s daughter Jenny Peters and three from the IWM photo archive. The former are photographs of Basil in various locations during the war, one on holiday with his wife Kate and their first son John in Ireland, whilst the other two were taken in unknown locations showing Basil in uniform during the forties.


Three Dunkirk Phossils by Charlie Bonallack
The three photographs from the IWM archive were taken during the Dunkirk evacuation either from the air by the RAF, from an awaiting boat or on the actual beachhead itself.
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I felt that by juxtaposing these two sets of three, one from a personal archive and one from a historical archive, the series as a whole might offer a more holistic viewpoint in assisting our collective memory of this dramatic period in our history. 
(Charlie Bonallack, 21st May 2015)
The phossils are made in a very unusual technique which involves hand-painting the image with porcelain pigments onto the fired porcelain panel, and then firing again to a temperature of 1280 degrees centigrade.  Because of the degree of realism Charlie achieves, people often assume that the images are simply transferred by printing techniques onto the porcelain panels; in fact it’s a meticulous and time-consuming process he has perfected over several series.  A recent review describes the interpretation process:
Charlie revisits, scrutinises and questions the visual makeup which amounts to the recorded image – the photograph – selecting which visual information is worth investigating and which areas are best left as empty vacuums or faint traces…
…the end result is essentially a ‘fired’ photograph, which if not dropped and broken will serve as an eternal memorial to a given moment, rather than wither and fade like a printed photograph. These beautifully rendered porcelain photographs (which he refers to as ‘phossils’) are then presented with a variety of supports and often transform an existing object, like a table or a car into an installation or sculpture – a monument to an already completed moment.
(Kaz Raad, 2014)
Six Dunkirk Phossils on driftwood by Charlie Bonallack
The support Charlie has chosen for his Dunkirk Phossils is a beautiful piece of driftwood picked up on the French coast near his home:
The driftwood is a large piece I found on a local beach here and I think lends itself well as a support offering texture and colour but also as a form which has a directional feel to it, possibly even hinting at a wing, boat, wave or even tidal flow.
He has also photographed the work on a black ground, as though floating or drifting in a void. Images from the Dunkirk Phossils can be seen throughout the pages of The Dunkirk Project and the full series is shown here as a beautiful and significant contribution to the project, as well as a moving memorial to his grandfather.
Dunkirk Phossil 70 by Charlie Bonallack: Aerial view of BEF troops waiting on Dunkirk beach (Image interpreted from photo taken from RAF plane in IWM archive, hand-painted on porcelain) 7.6cm x 12cm x 0.2cm
Phossil 70: Dunkirk beach from the air (interpreted from aerial photograph taken from RAF plane in May 1940, from IWM archive)
Dunkirk Phossil 66: Basil Bonallack on horse (c.1941), image hand-painted on porcelain fired twice up to 1280 degrees c. 10.5cm x 14.2cm x 0.15cm
Phossil 66: Basil Bonallack on horseback c1941
Dunkirk Phossil 68 by Charlie Bonallack: Troops on beach awaiting evacuation, Dunkirk 1940 (interpreted from source in IWM photo archive and hand-painted on porcelain) 10.3cm x  14cm x 0.2cm
Phossil 68: BEF troops on Dunkirk beach awaiting evacuation (interpreted from photo in IWM archive)
Dunkirk Phossil 65 by Charlie Bonallack: Basil Bonallack c.1941 (India?) 7.6cm x 12cm x 0.2cm (image hand-painted on porcelain fired twice to 1280 degrees centigrade)
Phossil 65: Basil Bonallack c1941 (India?)
Dunkirk Phossil 69 by Charlie Bonallack: BEF troops queuing to join rescue ship Dunkirk 1940 (image interpreted from source photo in IWM archive, hand-painted onto porcelain fired twice to 1280 degrees centigrade)
Phossil 69: Queue of troops in sea towards rescue ship, Dunkirk May 1940 (interpreted from photo in IWM archive)
Dunkirk Phossil 67 by Charlie Bonallack: Basil, Kate and John Bonallack, Ireland 1943? Image hand-painted on porcelain 8.7cm x 14.1cm x 0.2cm
Phossil 67: Basil, Kate and John Bonallack, Ireland 1943?
Dunkirk Phossil 70Dunkirk Phossil 66 by Charlie BonallackDunkirk Phossil 68 by Charlie BonallackDunkirk Phossil 65Dunkirk Phossil 69 by Charlie BonallackDunkirk Phossil 67 by Charlie Bonallack
Six Dunkirk Phossils by Charlie Bonallack 2015
All photos on this page © Charlie Bonallack 2015

One Response to “Dunkirk Phossils by Charlie Bonallack”

  1. Jenny Peters Says:

    Well done Charlie. One day hopefully we will be able to visit you and see your works.

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