Steve Hurst was born in Cairo and after serving in the army spent several years in the engineering industry. These two aspects of his life retain a strong presence in his work.
Having studied at the Ruskin School of Drawing, the University of Oxford and then at Goldsmiths College (1959-60), Hurst trained in casting under the legendary bronze-founder Alberto Angeloni at the Royal College of Art (1968-69). In 1971, Hurst was invited by George Fullard to run the sculpture foundry at Chelsea School of Art and later became Head of Sculpture at the University of Ulster in Belfast (1979-81). Influenced both by the political situation there and frequent trips to explore the battlefields of the Somme, Hurst returned to Belfast in 1985 to stage a major solo show of work. Talking about his continued interest in and expression of war Hurst says:
Expressionist art feeds both on the subconscious and on childhood memory. This is not so marked as in Surrealism but it remains a potent force. It is also a demanding force. By the end of the exhibition in Belfast I was exhausted and I wanted to turn away from war as a subject. The horror and indescribable folly of all the European nations, the sacrifice of the best of their men depressed me. I concentrated on a mathematical, abstract form of art. Commercial galleries liked these sculptures as much as they disliked the Somme Series. The sculptures, in chromium plated steel or bronze, sold. I was a success but I was not myself and gradually the war came creeping back.
In 1982, Hurst and his wife Sylvie set up a foundry to cast sculpture in Oxfordshire and began a long and happy association with Pangolin Editions. Hurst then began working as a foundry consultant and training adviser to NGOs in developing countries. While working in Uganda and Eastern Sudan he took a part-time MA in colonial and post-colonial history and has since published a number of military history books.
Hurst’s work, whether cast, fabricated, drawn or written, often actively questions common opinion and official history and contrasts it with his own personal experience. The enigmatic sculptures, collages and assemblages that result from these combined interests are instantly recognisable in form yet imbued with a poignant sense of the fragments of human life left behind after futile combat or disaster. Hurst has exhibited widely and in 2013 had a major retrospective exhibition at the In Flanders Fields Museum, Ypres. He lives and works in Oxfordshire.