was born and raised in London
, but that doesn't stop him from carving out devastating commentary on gun violence
Turnbull painstakingly chisels weapons of various sizes into vintage school desks and church materials to create a powerful critique of the firearms epidemic, which killed nearly 20,000 people
in the United States
alone in 2020.
“It makes no difference as to your nationality or even your standpoint when dealing with the concept of an invention of an instrument of death
,” the artist told Stardia. “Incredible invention. These objects are beautifully constructed and designed, but the feeling of impending doom once in your hand is absolutely freakish, unnerving — the thoughts that can go on in your head and the compelling implacability of the instrument of death.
In 2009, Turnbull released the “I Don’t Like Mondays” series of desks, which were inspired by Brenda Spencer’s explanation for shooting up Grover Cleveland
Elementary School in San Diego
Another of Turnbull's desks displays mass shooting
locations as an American flag:
Another depicts bullets forming the stripes of a flag:
Turnbull had intended to use the desks for another project at first.
“But then a feeling gradually built up about something engrained in the wood, all the angst of the graffiti, disgust, (bubblegum), the stench of them, and then simply the idea spawned from that,” he wrote in an email. “The idea that these dangers were hidden inside, that they were always dangerously lying in wait.”
It took up to four weeks to complete each carving.
“You’re working from the inside out, so you have to work backward in your brain
, which takes some getting used to,” Turnbull explained.
Turnbull has now followed up 12 years later with a series of church-themed carvings inspired by the coronavirus pandemic
and his "absolute anger and frustration."
“These ingredients were the perfect foundation for using these church materials, and the timing of this project was critical,” he explained. “I wanted to represent the absolute pointlessness of faith and the ultimate meaninglessness of devoting oneself to these ideals. It’s the most vicious attack
and most violent work I have ever done, which is bonkers when you consider the final product.”
“It looks like something you'd find in a chapel,” he added.
Turnbull's carvings are on display at the Saatchi Gallery in London as part of his new "American History RemiX
" exhibition, alongside his equally laborious vintage comic book
“It’s actually easier/happier for me when I’m working than when I’m not working,” Turnbull wrote of his often weeks-long approach to creating individual pieces of art. “If I’m not working, I’m jittery, anxious like an addict looking for his next fix. I’m tranquillity itself with my scissors, scalpels, and chisels.”
”America History RemiX” is on display at the Saatchi Gallery in London until July 17.