In 2009 McCrow’s close friend lost both legs and an arm in an explosion whilst on tour with the British Army in Afghanistan. It was one of the catalysts that turned a distant fascination with guns and weaponry into questions about individual purpose, morality, hidden stories and the ability of one person to make a difference.
Since then, McCrow has begun a journey to deactivate and destroy as many weapons as he can. It’s a personal quest to understand first hand the terrible consequences of conflict and through art, tell the unheard, human stories that share their past with each weapon he finds.
As well as making a small but important difference to arms reduction, McCrow is producing a body of work that is proving to be extraordinarily provocative and totally captivating.
An underlying theme of the work is an exploration of moral insanity; described 200 years ago as a decay of social affections, an aversion to the nearest relatives and friends formerly beloved; in short, a change in the moral character of the individual.
Guns have long had an extraordinary and terrible influence over us. There are those who glorify them, those that subjugate through them and those who suffer by them. McCrow captures this polarising behavior and brings the subject into the 21st Century, portraying it with originality, wit, and soul.
Working with weaponry procured directly from areas of conflict and then decommissioned, McCrow wants people to look beyond their new representation to acknowledge the dark story each weapon carries with it; to challenge our sanitised view of guns, our reaction to their being in front of us and with that our own morality. McCrow’s art is controversial, thought provoking and embraces the contradictory views that come with guns and refocuses them with a fresh perspective and a heartfelt purpose.
There have been an estimated 75,000,000 AK47s made since it came into service in 1947. It is inexpensive to manufacture, highly reliable, relatively compact and is probably the most effective killing machine ever invented. It is the most commonly smuggled small arms sold to Governments, rebels, criminals and civilians alike around the world and has been the cause of terrible acts of social control, racial and ethnic prejudice and punitiveness against millions of people.
McCrow travelled to minefields in Battambang, Cambodia with UK-based international NGO, MAG (Mines Advisory Group). Here, he documented how the charity helps local communities by removing the remnants of conflict, posing obstacles to reconstruction and development.
The stories McCrow uncovers through his art tell of the continuous struggle people face from small arms, mines and other unexploded ordnance strewn across miles of countryside. By taking these weapons out of action, a region’s dark past can begin to turn into a brighter future for those who continue to live and work there.
The programmes McCrow is involved with include MAG, Project AK47 and War Child. They represent far more than a source or recipient of help, there’s a sense of shared values; a commitment to going to the places where the weapons are; and a desire to share – in their own ways – the unique, human stories from areas of conflict the world rarely hears.
McCrow is also working on a short film and photographic book to document recent trips to some of the world’s most war torn areas and a percentage of the sale of artworks are donated to these organizations in a bid to support their invaluable and life saving work.