Melbourne artist Martin King has won the 2019 Gallipoli Art Prize, a $20,000 acquisitive prize funded by the Gallipoli Memorial Club, with his mixed media work War Pigeon Diaries consisting of seven open notebooks containing beautifully intricate prints of carrier pigeons that were used during WWI and WWII to carry vital messages behind enemy lines and for aerial surveillance.
In his accompanying artist statement Martin King said, ‘My work refers to the resourcefulness and spirit of army personnel who, with great affection and care, worked with homing pigeons. The birds were never considered expendable. They were considered integral to the war effort and were treated as heroes in many cases.’
‘Camaraderie was not only between war personnel but extended to the many animals including the beloved pigeons, that were employed in the service of war. My research led me to discover that pigeons were trialled for aerial reconnaissance and were parachuted behind enemy lines and onto battlefields and used extensively for intelligence and communications.’
‘I chose to present the work as a series of diaries as they convey a sense of the intimate and the personal. Soldier’s personal accounts from the field, in the form of diaries and letters, have always been compelling reading. They can be an insight into the forgotten stories.’
John Robertson, one of the prize’s judges and Chairperson of the Gallipoli Art Prize Committee, remarked on King’s winning work, ‘The broad themes of mutual loyalty, respect and comradeship as outlined in the Gallipoli Club’s Creed not only need refer to human relationships. Animals have long played a vital role in times of conflict. Martin King’s beautifully intricate work depicts pigeons used for aerial surveillance and pigeons parachuted behind enemy lines. He included positive and negative prints and reproductions of actual photos taken by the pigeons. The judges were impressed by this innovative use of the medium and the subject matter.’
The judges also highly commended Sunrise Service Richmond NSW by painter Michael Lodge whose father was a POW in Burma and Under Cover of Darkness by Geoff Harvey. This year’s judging panel included Jane Watters (Director, S.H. Ervin Gallery, Sydney), writer, editor and art critic John McDonald, Barry Pearce (former Head Curator of Australian Art, AGNSW) and John Robertson (President, Gallipoli Memorial Club).
Now in its 14th 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 Club’s creed. The works do not need to depict warfare, nor do they need to relate, directly or indirectly, to any conflict.
THE GALLIPOLI MEMORIAL CLUB 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”.
This year’s collection of finalist works comprise a broad range of imagery including a painting by 17 year old Katie Gillgren depicting a Labrador used as a companion dog for soldiers suffering PTSD and a mixed media work by Cathie Cox depicting a young soldier with a tree sprouting from his heart, inspired by a Henry Lawson poem. The works in the Gallipoli Art Prize reflect deeply upon the legacy of the Club and its creed across generations, and Australia’s involvement in armed conflict over the last century, making it a unique and important art competition.
King’s winning work along with 34 finalist works will be on public display from 18 to 26 April 2019 at the Harbour View Hotel, 18 Lower Fort St, Dawes Point (The Rocks) Sydney whilst the Gallipoli Memorial Club in Circular Quay undergoes redevelopment.