Contemporary Gallipoli

A Macquarie University Art Gallery Touring Exhibition - Macquarie University Art Gallery, Grafton Regional Art Gallery.

Macquarie University Art Gallery    2 April – 10 June 2015
Grafton Regional Gallery    18 March – 7 May 2016

Group Exhibition of Australian and Turkish artists curated by Dr Meredith Brice

A touring Macquarie University exhibition which commenced in April 2015 at Macquarie University Art Gallery Sydney. Artists are – Ross Auld – ceramics; Cenk Beyhan – paintings and hand colour prints; Susan O’Doherty – mixed media assemblages; Stephen Copland – mixed media and video art; Mark Davis – paintings; Meredith Brice – mixed media installations; Ihsan Dogrusoz – prints; Kate Downhill – paintings and mixed media; Burt Muller – jewellery; Dianne Jones – digital prints; Toby Roberts – musical compositions; Chris Sainsbury – musical compositions.

This exhibition explores and commemorates the first year of the Great War, specifically the Gallipoli Campaign from both Australian and Turkish perspectives.

About the Work:

Red Cross Nurse
Mixed media assemblage – ceramic tiles, tin vent, brass taps, scissors, ink bottle, nib pen, ceramic light switch, mirror, key, plaster arm, cotton, wooden Red Cross Box, fob watches, boot polish tin, razor, and shaving brush.   122 x 122 x 30cm

This work is dedicated to the women who went to war. Though hundreds of nurses were eventually dispatched to Egypt and the Greek Islands off Gallipoli, on the day of the landing 25th April there was only one hospital ship ‘The Gascon’ on hand . On board were eight Australian women – seven nurses and a matron. By the evening of that first day the Gascon was filled to capacity with over 550 seriously wounded soldiers and so set sail for Egypt. An entry from the diary of nurse Ella Tucker who served on the Gasgon for 9 months as it carried over 8000 wounded and sick soldiers between the Galipoli Peninsula and the hospitals on Lemons, Imbros, Salonika, Alexandria, Malta and England reads “Every night there are two or three deaths, sometimes five or six; it’s just awful flying from one ward to the other…each night is a nightmare, the patients’ faces all look so pale with the flickering ship’s lights”.

(Ella Tucker, in guns and Brooches in Jan Bassett)

Doing their best with limited supplies under desperate circumstances, these dedicated and steadfast women were flung into the unknown and would have had to use all their resources to keep going. Their comforting presence would have been like a god-send to the wounded and sick men. Framed by blue tiles symbolizing the Aegean Sea I wanted to convey the fragmentation of their world, from the safety and order of home to the raw and chaotic experience of frontline nursing signifying the duality of these two worlds.

4.30am, 25th April 1915
mixed media assemblage – ceramic tiles, alarm clock, fob watches, paint, wood and varnish         120 x 120 x 10cm

The fob watches and their motionless hands signify the young lives tragically cut short throughout the day of the landing – 25th April 1915. At 4.30 of that morning the Anzac landing began. What began as an anticipated simple and easy conquest of the Turkish resistance was swiftly transformed into the chaos and carnage of a fiercely fought battle. On the Anzac’s side there are thought to have been about 2000 casualties including 650 dead, though there are no definitive records of these numbers.

I began collecting these old and often broken fob watches in Turkey when I visited Istanbul and Gallipoli in June 2013. Combing through bric-a-brac and junk shops in Istanbul these watches jumped out at me though I didn’t know at the time quite what I would do with them. It wasn’t until I got home and had read more about the Gallipoli campaign that the significance of time and tragedy coalesced. I then sourced more vintage watches, often in a state of total disrepair, to accumulate enough to stand in for the rows of soldiers. Each watch stopped at a different time of the day bears witness to a loss of life.

And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda
mixed media assemblage – gramophone horn, wooden piano keys, skirting board, ceramic light dimmer, paint, wood and varnish       130 x 69 x 40cm

The Music of War
My work ‘And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda’ relates to the sound of war; the cacophony of gun and shell fire, explosions, shouting and screaming and the importance of music as another kind of sound, a cheering and positive antidote to the horrors of the music of war.

At the time the First World War started the piano was a common feature in Australian households. Many of the young men who enlisted and were sent to Gallipoli had grown up with family sing-alongs around the piano or at the local pub. In competition with the piano was the newly popular and portable gramophone.

The Red Cross began requesting donations of gramophones and records to be sent on the troopships as valuable morale boosters for the soldiers. Even though the historian C.E.W. Bean made the sweeping statement that music was largely absent at Gallipoli this was definitely not the case. Troops often sang spontaneously and were singing en mass as they embarked from Egypt. Of the landing on the 25th April 1915 Lieutenant Aubrey Darnell wrote ‘we went cheering, swearing, I never heard such awful language in my life’. Over this din was the sound of voices ‘singing “This Bit of the World Belongs to Us”, over the Turk’s first line of trenches bayoneting everyone”. Describing a charge up the hills of Gallipoli on 3rd May Signaller Ellis Silas said ‘despite the murderous fire that was poured into us, we sang “(It’s a Long Way to) Tipperary”’. Makeshift military bands were also cobbled together for entertainment and light relief.

The importance of music to the troops on the frontlines and in the hospitals was significant. Under a photograph of an Anzac standing in a trench at Gallipoli next to his wind-up gramophone the caption reads he is ‘listening to music playing on the highly prized possession’.