Sunday, June 13, 2010

Hell here Now - the Gallipoli diary of Alfred Cameron

This painting Hell Here Now shows the Turkish landscape at Gallipoli occupied by ANZAC troops in 1915.  The painting includes quotes from the Gallipoli diary of Alfred Cameron, which is held in the Turnbull Library, and a quote from a Turkish solider Ismail Haaki. It is six meters long by 120 cms high on ten panels. It will be exhibited at Pataka Museum of Arts and Cultures in Porirua until the 30th of May.
Like many young men of his generation Alfred Cameron could not wait to get away to war. His only worry was that the show would be over before he got there. 
A musical interpretation of the Gallipoli diary of Alfred Cameron by Wellington musicians Catherine Mckay, Slava Fainitiski and Brenton Veitch with readings from the diary by Robin Kerr was performed at Pataka over ANZAC weekend. This performance featured Alfred Hill's recently rediscovered Trio in A Minor to show the imperial optimism of the New Zealand that Alfred Cameron was leaving and the sombre Faure Elegy, representing Cameron's despair at the loss of his friends and what the historian Chris Pugsley has called, 'the stark reality of a group of amateur citizen soldiers facing wars reality for the first time. And there was nothing glorious about it. It was mistake, blunder, muddle, death and disease.' 
Listen to an interview with Bob Kerr and pianist Catherine Mckay about this visual and musical collaboration by Ava Radich of  The concert Programme here.

This show contrasts with an earlier show at Milford galleries in Dunedin.  Number One Field Punishment which looked at the experiences of the conscientious objector Archibald Baxter who, along with thirteen others was kidnapped by the New Zealand Government and taken to France in 1917. Here he was administered number one field punishment. 

Even though he refused to co-operate with the army Baxter was often treated with kindness by the ordinary soldiers he met. 
“I remember always the gentleness and humanity of the ordinary soldiers who were close to me in those times.” - from We Will Not Cease by Archibald Baxter. 

The Ordinary Soldiers. 2 of five panels each 40 x60

Baxter's fellow objector Mark Briggs refused to walk to the front so he was dragged on his back along the duck walk.

The Duck Walk. 120 x 120 Oil on board

David Grant on the left and Field Punishment No.1

You can read more about the conscientious objectors Archibald Baxter and Mark Briggs in David Grant's excellent book  Field Punishment No.1. It's got some of my paintings in it as well. It's published by Steele Roberts.