Des Souvenirs 1914 – 1918

Artist’s Statement

Souvenir (French) : token, keepsake, memento, recollection, remembrance, heirloom, memory.

My work concerning World War One mainly deals with ways of perceiving history – the way it changes when it leaves the sphere of living history, and personal accounts and memoirs, as opposed to broader official histories. It is through the fragmented accounts of individual witnesses that we can glean some understanding of the impact of war on those veterans and also the community they are/were a part of.

This exhibition addresses ways of seeing history, and questions how we approach it when there are no living witnesses left.

The large drawing, Polygon Wood 26th September 1917 and The Prize (from an aerial photograph of Passchendaele 1917) were exhibited in Zonnebeke, Belgium in 2007 as part of the 90th Anniversary of the Battle of Passchendaele.

Breathe and Unknown (lithographs) were produced at the atelier of Czech Master Printer Rudolf Broulim in Ekeren, Belgium.

The etchings, artist’s books and lithograph Blind/Gassed were made during a residency at the Frans Masereel Centre for Printmaking at Kasterlee in northern Belgium. All the lithographs were printed by Rudolf and bare the chop (embossed symbol) of his atelier.

The book objects and reliquaries were made since returning from Europe. This trip to Belgium inspired me to revisit earlier work resulting in the landscape, Pozieres 9th August 1916.

This recent body of work addresses the notion of landscape as witness. Dotted along what was the Western Front are the remnants of battlefields, sunken roads and huge craters from mine explosions, preserved as memorials. All that is left of a landscape rendered by industrialised warfare, all distinguishing features obliterated, one battlefield barely recognisable from another, a homogenous desolate sea of craters.

Walking through these preserved areas, often pleasantly green and lightly wooded, the ground covered with grass but disturbed and strangely poked, the visitor cannot help but think about what happened in these places. What happened to those who endured those terrible times. Now with no living witnesses left, the land itself becomes the last witness.

Acknowledgements: I am grateful to Jeff Doyle, Senior Lecturer at the University of New South Wales at the Australian Defence Force Academy for his continuing support, assistance and encouragement. I would also like to thank Dr. Peter Stanley for opening the exhibition.