The Special Forces soldier-turned artist wants to promote peace and environmental protection
Bran Symondson is a unique artist not just because he was a British Special Forces soldier deployed to war-torn Afghanistan at the height of the conflict but also because he is today the only sculpture artist about to launch a stunning NFT collection on 19 December.
As an NFT artist, who has yet to launch, Bran is arguably one of the most prominent because many of his sculptures form part of valuable collections held by sir Elton John, the Chapman Brothers, and the Prince of Bahrain, to name a few.
I had the privilege to meet him in London last Friday, 10 December in London at the House of Fine Arts Museum where his fascinating “Kalash 47 – Arm to Disarm” exhibition was on its last day.
When I walked into the HOFA gallery, I immediately headed over to where he was and introduced myself. He took one look at me and asked me to tell him my story.
“My story is long and traumatic, so I don’t want to dive into it because today it’s about you,” I told him. But he insisted, so I gave him a quick rundown on how I’ve been a journalist since 1984 and my undercover work for AP into drug cartels.
“I also wrote about a Mexican president, Carlos Salinas. He stole $10 billion. Years later, I was kidnapped, tortured, and thrown in jail by the Mexican government due to my work as a journalist,” I told him, looking into his eyes and telling myself, this is a person who has like me has seen been to hell and back.
And I thought that before learning that Bran had held a critically-acclaimed exhibition at the Idea Generation Gallery (now The Proud Archivist) called “The Best View of Heaven Is from Hell.” It all made sense now. We had an unspoken understanding.
“One day, we came under an intense Taliban attack. Bullets were raining in our direction. We dove into a ditch, and the first thing I saw there was this young Afghan National Police soldier with a gentle smile, denoting calmness and holding his AK-47 adorned with pink stickers,” Bran told me.
“That is the moment the penny dropped for me, and I realized that I wanted to become an artist and use the deadliest and most symbolic weapon on earth as my canvas to express my art,” he said.
Because Bran and I agreed that life is much too precious to obsess over the negative things and that the terrible experiences we’ve lived do not define who we are, we decided to only focus on his life as an artist.
Bran had already been taking photos in Afghanistan the Sunday Times. Years later. He was considered one of the finest reportage photographers of the 21st Century. He’d started his career alongside renowned photographers such as David La Chapelle, Nadav Kander, and Gavin Bond. His first success was in the 2003 Schweppes Photographic Portrait Prize at the National Portrait Gallery.
So, in 2007 when the penny dropped for him, it was not a difficult transition from photography to sculpture. At that moment, under fire, Bran began developing the concept of his photographs further. He designed his sellout show “AKA Peace,” through which he established the groundbreaking gun transformation – taking decommissioned AK47 guns from active war zones and masterfully embellishing them with butterflies, dollar bills, and symbolic materials.
He worked with artists such as Damien Hirst, Gavin Turk, Antony Gormley, and Chapman brothers and invited them to take on this idea to create works for a charitable cause.
With his AK-47 artwork, he wants to raise awareness of climate change, nature, the extinction of bees, and peace. The objective behind his art and philanthropy has caught the attention of Greenpeace and art lovers worldwide.
The Kalash 47 collection
Bran shares his belief that even though world conflicts leave unspoken catastrophes and scars, there is always hope through this thought-provoking collection. Societies, humans, and nature can flourish once again if supported and not forgotten. Nature and prosperity can prevail in places where metal guns have left their mark, even though they are far from easy to accomplish.
Kalash 47 – The Art to Disarm NFT collection took six months of planning and design to ensure that each and every 2,047 digital collectibles contain the same quality and emotion that Bran expresses through his physical artwork. Each Kalash 47 NFT is different, whether the background, a butterfly, or a laser coming out of the barrel.
“Kalash 47 is a representation of many things, just like a school bag covered in badges or your laptop covered in stickers. It’s things you believe in, subjects that are close to your heart,” says Bran. “That’s how I have treated this collection. It’s more than just a JPEG… it’s personal.”
Half of the NFT collection comprises Bran’s physical AK47 artworks, many of which are currently in exhibitions in galleries worldwide.
The minting for Kalash 47 – The Art to Disarm will take place on Sunday 19 December 2021 at 20:47 GMT on Dropspace. Prospective buyers will need to have whitelisted their wallet address beforehand. For more information on the Kalash 47 – The Art to Disarm NFT project, please visit Dropspace.
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