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Night Shoot, De Brug

2016 Competition entry

Mariétte Pretorius

Not Signed
Oil on canvas
1 m x 1,5 m


This work entitled “Night Shoot, De Brug” explores the theme of military capabilities during times of peace and the use of art as a visual documenting tool in capturing current events.

The work portrays a night time exercise by members of the South African National Defense Force that was open for viewing to members of the public. Turning a military exercise into a spectator event can be seen as a way in which ordinary citizens are reassured of the capabilities of the military in dealing with potential threats to the peace and stability of citizens.

On the other hand it also questions how the act of war is romanticised and the way in which the general public is desensitised to the destruction, death and misery that these machines are designed to inflict.

During this spectacular exercise the public is enthralled by the mighty roar of the diesel engines as the tanks take their place at the shooting range. Then they experience the earth shaking boom of the guns, the searing flashes, and then far away another single flash, and only seconds later the boom of the shells exploding. It is a truly visceral experience. Children and adults alike clap hands and exclaim in surprise and admiration. In “Night Shoot, De Brug” the show of force is captured by the number of tanks and explosions in the background. With use of chiaroscuro, and the large dark background against the highlighted tank and explosion a dramatic but almost mystical atmosphere is created. This, together with the lack of painted detail on the tanks, emphasises the provoking of emotion rather than just factually documenting the event.

The painting depicts a specific moment during the exercise, similar to the capturing of emotive and powerful images by a photo journalist. The work juxtaposes the display of technologically advanced military power with the power of art to visually capture such a current event.