As the centenary of Anzac looms, there are countless ways in which a community can remember.

And when it comes to artists, the theme of commemoration is fertile ground.

The Australian War Memorial had long planned to commission a body of work in the lead-up to the centenary of the landing of Gallipoli, and eventually settled on the idea of a print portfolio involving artists from Australia and New Zealand.

Exhibition curator Laura Webster said the official Australia/NZ Print Portfolio project, launched on Thursday in collaboration with Megalo Print Studio and Gallery in Kingston, was the perfect way to examine the different ways in which the two countries planned to commemorate Anzac.

After a long research process, the memorial settled on 10 artists – five from each country – with different styles and practices, to each create a print that reflecting their own idea of war and memory.

“We were looking at their practice and the kind of things they were responding to, and thinking that they might be able to bring something different to the table, or a different conversation, different perspective,” she said.

“We wanted them to look at it both artistically and reflexively, what it means to them, if they have a connection to it. It was actually quite a broad brief we gave to them. They didn’t experience it, none of us experienced it, so it’s just their take on how they’re seeing this commemoration, and not just commemoration but the history itself.”

Working under Canberra-based master printer John Loane, the artists will each spend a period of time at Megalo, and create one print, each of which will form a limited edition of 20.

Five of the artists have already been into the studio and created their work, the most recent being New Zealand artist Shane Cotton, whose piece, made up largely of an evocative grey sky and vast landscape, was taking shape on a large Megalo workbench on Thursday.

“I’m interested in landscape, and I’m interested in the idea that we attach stories and narratives to landscape and the way that we give them importance,” he said.

“For me, it’s become a study in remembrance, and what it means to do it, and the process of doing it – that we can reflect on the narratives and the stories, and around the commemoration and what it means for us personally.”

Other artists who have already completed their commissions include Mike Parr and Megan Cope, both of whom have focused on personal family connections to the Great War.

Ms Webster said the last of the artists would be working in the studio in June 2015, and the memorial planned to display the entire portfolio late in the year.

“One of the reasons we decided to do it was we’ve got this huge collection of Will Dyson prints, and he, during and at the end of the war, created a large collection of prints about the First World War. It was a means of distributing, more broadly, these illustrations and images of basically the horrors of war and the nature of that conflict and the Australian experience,” she said.

“Print has always been used as a medium that’s more easily distributed than a painting or a sculpture or something like that. That was one of the reasons that we decided to use it, and it was a way that we could also, ourselves, distribute the edition around Australia and New Zealand as well, rather than just sending one painting around.”

Via: The Canberra Times

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