Community | Arts Communities Remember WWI

With 2015 bringing on the centenary of the Gallipoli landings, people up and down the country have enthusiastically donated time and resources to ANZAC commemoration. The poppies are hard to miss, as are the images of soldiers, the words of remembrance.

But we have also been observing service and sacrifice through art. Across the country many unique works have been produced, exhibitions curated, designed and marketed, and amongst it all are two small community arts exhibitions that recently opened in the Manawatu.

The ‘Memories and Memoirs’ exhibition was on display at the Square Edge Community Arts Centre. The exhibition ran throughout the building, occupying multiple galleries, and has the feel of a tiny art’s trail as you travel from point to point. Each new section is separated from the last by space, thematic shift and creator, and yet the next step can always be seen, either down the hall or across the building in the next gallery. The layout expresses the cause and effect dance of time.

One artwork stood out to me as particularly effective in conveying the mixture of horror and hope that the Great War still conjures up. A Word on War is a made up of myriad small, square canvases hung row upon row on the wall, covering a huge variety of styles and topics. The canvases themselves were initially given out to rest homes and schools by Ochre Art Supplies in order to give a broad range of people the chance to become involved. Artists were free to work in any medium and style; the only restriction was canvas size, and the instruction that the artwork must focus on a single word about the First World War. The result is a rich array of single word interpretations by artists ranging from 5 to 93, from a broad range of ethnicities and backgrounds. When taken together in their final state, they effectively convey the discordant aspects that make up the memory of the Great War.

The Fielding and District Art Society Art Awards exhibition was an eclectic collection of artworks created in a range of styles, falling either within the category of ‘open’ or ‘Fields of Remembrance.’ Artworks with an ANZAC theme were flagged for the viewer by a small poppy card. Not unlike A Word on War, this exhibition had paintings in a great range of styles hanging side by side, giving the viewer a visualisation of the many and varied views, feelings and memories on the subject of World War One.

The exhibition had something for everyone, including those who perhaps would rather see something that was not ANZAC related. There were both small and large artworks, a multitude of themes throughout the space, and such a variety of styles that everyone was likely to find a favourite within the collection.

Top Image: Foreground,  Raemon Rolfe, ‘Gallipoli – That Climb up the…’, encaustic (2015).Background: Lynley Wilson, ‘The going down of the sun’, Acrylic, (2015). Feilding and District Art Centre.

Serena Siegenthaler.