Sydney artist Geoff Harvey has won the 2021 Gallipoli Art Prize, a $20,000 acquisitive prize auspiced by the Gallipoli Memorial Club, with his painting Forgotten Heroes depicting Australian ‘Waler’ horses used by Australian light horsemen during WWI.
Originally known as ‘New South Walers’, Waler horses were bred in Australia as hardy stock horses and were prized for travelling long distances in extreme heat with little water. More than 120,000 Walers were sent overseas to the allied armies in Africa, Europe, India and Palestine. Due to the costs of returning horses home and Australia’s quarantine laws, only one Waler is known to have been returned to Australia. The surviving horses were either culled or sold to the British army as remounts for Egypt and India.
‘So special and deep was the bond between rider and horse that many of the soldiers were traumatized by the realization that their faithful ‘mate’ was not coming home with them,’ says Harvey in his artist statement. ‘By the end of the war in 1918, those horses that survived the battlefields and the cull stayed in Egypt, France and India where they faced an uncertain future. No official records were kept of these brave horses.’
‘These trusty steeds did everything expected of them and more. Their bravery on the battlefields was legendary, and their loyalty unsurpassed. Because of these qualities, they earned a worldwide reputation as the ‘horse without an equal.’
‘My painting ‘Forgotten Heroes’ acknowledges these noble animals and gives them the recognition they so justly deserve.’
The judges highly commended Philip Meatcham for his painting A Different Dawn, depicting people standing at the end of their driveways with candles in the dawn light on Anzac Day in 2020 during the pandemic lockdown. The judges also highly commended Andrew Tomkins for The Guns Fell Silent. The work recounts the story of the artist’s mother based on the anti-aircraft guns overlooking the English Channel on D Day, 6 June 1944, when ‘the sky was black with aircraft and the Channel was filled with every craft imaginable’. Judging for this year’s Prize was conducted by Jane Watters, Barry Pearce, and John Robertson.
Now in its 16th year, The Gallipoli Art Prize invites artists to respond to the broad themes of loyalty, respect, love of country, courage and comradeship as expressed in the Gallipoli Memorial Club’s creed:
We believe that within the community there exists an obligation for all to preserve the special qualities of loyalty, respect, love of country, courage and comradeship which were personified by the heroes of the Gallipoli Campaign and bequeathed to all humanity as a foundation for perpetual peace and universal freedom.
The works do not need to depict warfare, nor do they need to relate, directly or indirectly, to any conflict.
The 2021 Gallipoli Art Prize winning work and 32 finalist works will be on exhibition at Merrylands RSL in Sydney from 15 April to 17 May 2021. To view the works online, visit www.gallipoliartprize.org.au