Avenue of Remembrance
Australian Tapestry Workshop Director, Antonia Syme and Australian War Memorial, Director Dr Brendan Nelson are pleased to announce the commencement of a significant new tapestry commission designed by Australian artist, Imants Tillers for the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. The tapestry, titled Avenue of Remembrance, is to be unveiled at the AWM during the Centenary commemorations of Gallipoli 2015.
Dr Nelson said the commemorative tapestry will be displayed prominently at the Memorial. “It will highlight the scale and grandeur of this imposing artwork, as well as commentating the commitment of Australia’s service men and women over more than 100 years,” he said.
“The Australian Tapestry Workshop is honoured to undertake this commission of national significance,” said Ms Syme. “We are especially pleased to be working with Imants Tillers, who has approached this work with reverence and sensitivity. The design is a beautiful depiction of a time of great loss in “the war to end all wars”. Interpreted into tapestry, this will create a profound sense of contemplation and remembrance at the Australian War Memorial.”
The tapestry has been commissioned by the Australian War Memorial through a very generous donation by the Geoff and Helen Handbury Foundation.
‘Alone with our destination with our father and with our mother’
The Gallipoli letter, an 8000 word document written by Keith Murdoch during the early part of World War 1 is justifiably considered to be one of the National Library’s most important objects and the content of the letter is regarded as having helped bring an end to the Gallipoli campaign. In this letter Murdoch laments, “how young Australians, knowing that they would probably die were flocking to fight on Gallipoli’s “sacred soil’”.
The passionate and urgent tone of Murdoch’s letter and sometimes, even his turn of phase (“congealed incompetency”), immediately struck a chord with me when I first read it. Also by coincidence, it seemed to me, that I had already been using similar expressions in many of my works over the last decade:
“There’s not a shred of hope”
“Stupefied by circumstance”
“The appalling silence”
“Purified by tears”
“A victim of what is infinitely close at hand”
to name a few.
These were paintings reflecting on mortality, being, time, loss, grieving and remembrance, perhaps prompted by the death of my parents and several close friends in the passing decade. Typically these paintings combined image and text into a kind of visual spatial poem and I decided to use a similar approach to this project.
Also with this tapestry design, I decided to eschew an exclusive focus on the tragic but national-defining event that was Gallipoli: (and its geography and topography) and to make reference to the whole of Australian participation in World War 1. Thus the names of places where Australians were buried (rather than the actual theatres of war) are quoted as readymade poetic elements in my design. Thus familiar names such as ‘Anzac Cove’, ‘Shrapnel Valley’, ‘Lone Pine’, appear alongside other Middle Eastern locales: ‘Jerusalem’, ‘Gaza’, ‘Beirut’ and ‘El Alamein’. But the majority of the resting places of our war dead are European and less familiar French and Belgian places on what was called the Western Front: ‘Ypres’, ‘Polygon Wood’, ‘Poperinghe’, ‘Zonnebuke’, ‘Fromelles’, ‘Villers-Bretonneau’, ‘Peronne’, ‘Fleurbaix’ to name just a few.
In many places in the world including Australia there are ‘gardens of remembrance’ – beautiful, serene places commemorating the dead especially those killed in the wars of 1914-18 and 1939-45. There are also ‘avenues of remembrance’ where each tree planted commemorates a particular, unique individual who died in action. These are beautiful, sad and redemptive places.
We all know that an ‘avenue’ is not only a regular planting of trees along a road, it is also more abstractly ‘a way to access or approach’ something – to an idea or even a memory. My ‘Avenue of Remembrance’ is, I hope, a way or means to remember not only those young men who died but also the profound loss and grief experienced by their mothers, their fathers, their brothers and sisters. By their friends, by their communities. By our nation.
Imants Tillersis a visual artist, writer and curator. Born in Sydney in 1950, Imants Tillers currently lives and works in Cooma, New South Wales. In 1973 Tillers graduated from the University of Sydney with a Bachelor of Science in Architecture (Hons), and the University Medal. Tillers has exhibited widely since the late 1960s, and has represented Australia at important international exhibitions, such as the Sao Paulo Bienal in 1975, Documenta 7 in 1982, and the 42nd Venice Biennale in 1986.
As one of Australia’s most significant artists, Tillers has been at the forefront of contemporary art for over three decades. Since 1981 Tillers has used his signature canvasboards to explore themes relevant to contemporary culture, from the centre/periphery debates of the 1980s, to the effects of migration, displacement and diaspora. Most recently, his paintings have been concerned with place, locality and evocations of the landscape.
imants Tilles is represented by Arc One, Melbourne, Roslyn Oxley9, Sydney, GAGPROJECTS, Adelaide and Bett Gallery, Hobart.
Images: Imants Tillers Workshop visit,Weaver Chris Cochius and ATW Dyer Tony Stefanovski discussing yarn colours, ATW Weaver Milena Paplinska at the sample loom, work in progress images, Cheryl Thornton weaving,Imants Tillers, Chris Cochius & Jenny Slatyer discussin the design.Images by ATW & Jeremy Weihrauch.