Tim Shaw RA, Tank on Fire (version 2)
Tim Shaw RA, Tank on Fire (version 2)
Tim Shaw RA, Tank on Fire (version 2)
Tim Shaw RA, Tank on Fire (version 2)
Tim Shaw RA, Tank on Fire (version 2)
Tim Shaw RA, Tank on Fire (version 2)

Tank on Fire (version 2), 2015

Tim Shaw RA (b. 1964)

RA Collection: Art

Tank on Fire (version 2) is a reworked version of Tank on Fire (2007-8), which Tim Shaw made during a residency at the former studios of another Academician, Kenneth Armitage. In an artist statement, Shaw wrote of the original work: ‘Tank on Fire’ depicts a soldier diving from a tank that is engulfed by flames. The work refers to the series of photographs taken in Basra in 2004 showing a soldier leaping to the ground from a burning Warrior vehicle.’ These photographs recorded a British armoured unit attempting to rescue two SAS soldiers held captive by Iraqi police was attacked by a crowd wielding petrol bombs.

Tank on Fire, the winner of the inaugural Threadneedle Selectors’ Prize for Figurative Art in 2008, was one of a number of works made by Shaw in response to the Iraq War during his residency at Armitage’s studio. These also included Man on Fire (2009, reworked 2014-15), which focused in on the figure of the soldier fleeing the tank, and Casting a Dark Democracy (2008, reworked 2014), which drew upon photographs of tortured prisoners in the Abu Ghraib prison. As part of his research Shaw visited army barracks at Salisbury to look at Warrior Personnel Carriers and talk to soldiers.

Writing about the photographs which inspired Tank on Fire, Shaw explained how conversations with soldiers who fought in Iraq helped in the making of the work:

'These shocking images have a macabre appeal; they are deeply compelling also because the scene is medieval in character. During the making of this piece, I met some of the soldiers from a tank battalion that had fought in Iraq. Listening to their experiences, one becomes acutely aware of the plight of each individual within the frame of that newspaper photograph—the anger and resentment felt by a disempowered population towards a foreign occupying force and that of the soldiers whose job it is to stay alive in such situations’.

Shaw has not specifically explained why Tank on Fire was reworked since the first version was completed in 2008, but he has often returned to earlier works, also including Casting a Dark Democracy, which has taken on different forms since the conclusion of the war which initially inspired Shaw to make it.

Object details

Tank on Fire (version 2)
Tim Shaw RA (b. 1964)
Object type
Copyright owner
Wax, black polythene and steel

518 mm x 420 mm x 550 mm

Royal Academy of Arts
Object number
Diploma Work given by Tim Shaw RA accepted 30 July 2015
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