My local art society are organising an exhibition for the upcoming ANZAC day, so I thought I would like to create something as part of the exhibition. My artwork is not intended to be historically correct, my apologies. I’m an ex-pom so my historic knowledge of WW1 is primarily of the British fighting in the trenches of France. My heart belongs here in Australia and I feel massively humbled to be allowed to live in this beautiful country. My research on the ANZACs is sketchy at best, but my feelings are genuine for those that fought and have given their lives so that I have the privilege of living the wonderful life I do.
When I started this piece I accessed the Australian War Memorial website, searching through hundreds of the photographs found there. One in particular caught my attention and it became the starting point of this work.
I then read that 130,000 horses were sent from Australia during WW1 and only one came back. Those that didn’t die during the war (around 13,000) were not permitted to return due to the tough stance taken by Australian quarantine officials.
I began digitally painting the horse and the grave, because of the emotional impact the above photograph had on me. Then I thought of all the other animals used in the war and believed they needed to be remembered too. Dogs used for searching out the wounded on battlefields, donkeys and camels used to transport the wounded to the hospital tents. Dogs to lay telegraph wire, warn of enemy attacks, carry messages, pull tea carts, or just to provide companionship. Pigeons, I thought only carried messages, but no, they were also used to carry a camera to take aerial photographs. Horses and camels to move troops, carry packs, move heavy artillery. The list was astounding.
Originally the finished work comprised only of the horse, donkey, dog and pigeon by the grave, but it looked wrong. It wasn’t telling a story.
I then incorporated a number of images to help support the painting element. These images taken during the years 1914 to 1918 are of real people. I use them proudly, with the greatest respect for those who are in these photographs. It allows me to bring them back so that they can be remembered and honoured, just like all others like them.
I thought I’d finally finished after including the images, but it felt unbalanced, although I couldn’t fathom it at the time. It was only when I thought to paint a likeness of the statue designed by Alan Somerville, for the ANZAC bridge monument that I was able to bring balance back into the work.
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Samantha "I'm a person who feels I live in paradise and truly love Australia after immigrating here in 2003. I work as a foreign exchange trader, live with my true soul mate, husband Albert. I have a passion for Aussie wildlife and became a registered wildlife carer in 2005 and can say I feel truly privileged to be able to raise and rehabilitate orphan wallaby/kangaroo joeys. I love these creatures with my heart and soul. My dream is to be able to help struggling volunteer wildlife carers, financially, so that they can do what they do best without worrying how to pay the next vet bill"