Mad Through The Darkness

Art Life , Exhibitions Apr 20, 2015 No Comments

From Andrew Frost

It’s perhaps not surprising that the majority of Anzac related events and exhibitions commemorating the centenary of Australia’s involvement in World War One have so far tended to concentrate on the heroism and nation building aspects of that war. While a majority of people would be willing to accept that WW1 was ultimately for nothing, and set events in train for the next calamitous war, the human aspects of the Great War have focused on depictions of soldiers by civilians and other professional witnesses such as writers, journalists and artists.


The Art Gallery of NSW’s centenary offering is Mad Through The Darkness an exhibition that gathers together works by official war artists Will Dyson, George W Lambert, Arthur Streeton, Fred Leist and Septimus Power, and including paintings that, while attempting to describe what the artist’s witnessed or had related to them, these history paintings carefully and studiously reinforce the political realities of their day. Works by Napier Waller and Roy de Maistre, both volunteers for the Australian Imperial Force, provide a different perspective.

Also included in the show is a selection of works by Evelyn Chapman, the first female Australian artist to visit Europe‚Äôs First World War battlefields. A much later major post war work The Galaxy by Sidney Nolan [1957-58] is painting is noted for its depiction of “…soldiers swimming at Anzac Cove as exploding shells light up the vast expanse of inky darkness” – a picture more in tune with the mythos of Anzac than the war itself.

Until October 11
Art Gallery of NSW, The Domain
Pic: Septimus Power, The enemy in sight, 1916.

Andrew Frost

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