Avenue of Remembrance: New tapestry unveiled at War Memorial becomes a key element in permanent display


The Australian War Memorial (AWM) has unveiled a tapestry described as one of the most important works of art in its 36,000 strong collection.

The tapestry, entitled Avenue of Remembrance, was based on a painting by Australian artist Imants Tillers. It was commissioned in 2014, but Mr Tillers said he had just one day to come up with a concept for the work. It is a stark contrast to the time it took to complete the final tapestry.

Five master weavers - Sue Batten, Chris Cochius, Pamela Joyce, Milena Paplinska, and Cheryl Thornton - dedicated more than 2,380 hours to its creation. The finished work measures 3.3 metres by 2.8 metres.

"It's a very powerful work of art, and one that we feel we've been very, very privileged to create in collaboration with Imants and the Australian War Memorial," Australian Tapestry Workshop director Antonia Syme said.

The tapestry was completed in a "cutting" ceremony in Melbourne on April 13, but has now been officially welcomed to its permanent home.

It is scattered with excerpts from one of the most important pieces of correspondence in Australian history - Keith Murdoch's Gallipoli letter sent to Prime Minister Andrew Fisher after the failed August offensive during World War One in 1915.

It told of the futile attempts at advance, and the suffering of the first Anzacs and described the Gallipoli landings as one of the most "terrible chapters" in Australian history. The letter is regarded as instrumental in bringing the campaign to an end.
"Keith Murdoch made the observation that even though they knew they would probably die, young Australians were flocking to fight on the sacred soil of Gallipoli," AWM director Brendan Nelson said.

The tapestry also features the names of theatres of war, where Australian soldiers are buried. "Just to see the names that are on this tapestry - of Ypres, Poperinghe, Fromelles, Anzac Cove, Lone Pine. Those single words and phrases sometimes meant the loss of not just one son, but two, or three, or even four across the whole war," Dr Nelson said.

He described the tapestry as one of the most important works in the AWM's collection, saying it would remain on permanent display unless it was lent to other memorials. "There are two artworks I believe in our collection of 36,000, that should always be permanently displayed at the Australian War Memorial ... the Menin Gate At Midnight, and the Avenue of Remembrance."

[This article was written by Jordan Hayne for the ABC published on April 30, 2015.]

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