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Morning Star

Major new tapestry commission to celebrate the opening of the Sir John Monash Centre in France

The Australian Tapestry Workshop (ATW) is delighted to announce a major tapestry designed by prominent Australian artists Lyndell Brown and Charles Green for the new Sir John Monash Centre (SJMC) in France.

The Tapestry Foundation of Australia and a number of generous private donors including; The Marjorie Kingston Trust, The Calvert-Jones Family, Anne and Mark Robertson, Australian Hotels Association, Samantha and Charles Baillieu, and Baillieu and Sarah Myer are supporting this important tapestry. The ATW is additionally thrilled that the ANZAC Centenary Arts and Culture Fund will be assisting with this project.

Senator Paterson, Patron Senator for Melbourne Ports said:

“As the Patron Senator for Melbourne Ports, I am pleased to announce this ANZAC Centenary Arts and Culture fund grant for $89,860. The Sir John Monash Centre, which currently under construction in Villers-Bretonneux, is set to become an important memorial for Australia and the 2.5m x 5.04m tapestry Morning Star will be prominently displayed in the foyer of the SJMC.”

The SJMC has been designed by Cox Architects, with Convergence Associates, and it will create an evocative, emotional, informative and educational experience for visitors of all nationalities.

The tapestry will provide a lasting legacy in perpetuity commemorating the 46,000 Australian lives lost
in the battles of the Western Front in World War 1 and commemorate the Centenary of ANZAC. The design is by renowned Australian artists Lyndell Brown and Charles Green, who have been war artists in Iraq and Afghanistan and have had over 30 exhibitions in Australia and internationally.

Artists Lyndell Brown and Charles Green said:

“Just as the SJMC provides both Australian and non-Australian visitors with an understanding of the impact of Australia’s involvement on the Western Front through an engagement with the places in which the Australians fought and the experiences of those who were there, so this tapestry aims to communicate to non-Australians and to Australian pilgrims an understanding of the places for which the Australians fought and the imaginary spaces that they carried with them. We know this is the case: Charles Green’s grandfather was one of those WW1 Australian soldiers at the Western Front, badly wounded and invalided on these precise battlefields, and we have his letters to home”.

This significant contemporary artistic work and commemorative tribute will promote Australia’s creative excellence and innovation on a world stage. The tapestry will educate a new audience about Australia’s early role in international affairs, reshape patterns of visitation to the Western Front battlefields and in so doing, provide a lasting legacy from the Centenary of ANZAC.

Director of the Australian Tapestry Workshop Antonia Syme said:

“It is such an honour for the Australian Tapestry Workshop to be creating this wonderful work with Lyndell and Charles on a grand scale for the Sir John Monash Centre, and it is a very powerful and sensitive tribute to all the people who paid the ultimate sacrifice on the Western Front with their lives. We are extremely grateful for the generosity of a number of visionary people, and the ANZAC Centenary Fund in making this superb tapestry possible.”

The tapestry will begin production next month at the Australian Tapestry Workshop in Melbourne, and will take over 4000 hours to weave. The tapestry will be unveiled at the opening of the SJMC on ANZAC day in 2018.

Morning Star: Artist Statement - Lyndell Brown and Charles Green

This tapestry seeks to evoke the experience of arrival at a war, and in particular of Australians at the Western Front. With them on their arrival were their memories of Australia and their departure from home. These are the subjects of the tapestry. This tapestry aims to evoke the soldiers’ pathway from home to the Front, and emphasizes the incongruity between the Australia that they imagined as they journeyed further and further towards the Front. Just as the Centre provides both Australian and non-Australian visitors with an understanding of the impact of Australia’s involvement on the Western Front through an engagement with the places in which the Australians fought and the experiences of those who were there, so this tapestry aims to communicate to non-Australians and to Australian pilgrims an understanding of the places for which the Australians fought and the imaginary spaces that they carried with them. We know this is the case: Charles Green’s grandfather was one of those WW1 Australian soldiers at the Western Front, badly wounded and invalided on these precise battlefields, and we have his letters to home.

It therefore seems to us that it is absolutely essential, first, to evoke a mental place of Australian freedom and clear light; and, second, to evoke the sea-borne passage towards the soldiers’ arrival at the Front. The tapestry emphasises the disjunction between the terrible experiences that the museum describes rather than repeats them. It seems to us very important to present images such as soldiers might have carried in their hearts and imaginations as they arrived at the Western Front. If the Centre had been located in Australia, we would have chosen the reverse, to evoke the Front.

There are two personal contexts that we offer to illuminate our work. Charles Green’s grandfather served as an Australian soldier on the Western Front. He was gassed and lived the rest of his life as an invalid, as a deeply disturbed shadow. Although he died decades before Green was born, that WW1 tragedy was very present in his family and especially with his grandmother, by then a war widow. And interestingly, she spoke often about the soldiers’ love of Sir John Monash, describing him to us with great devotion. Second, in 2007 we were Australia’s Official War Artists, deployed into Iraq and Afghanistan for a period longer than any War Artist since the program was reinstituted in 1996, and during those deployments we spent all our time amongst soldiers on active duty, surprised by their complete support for war artists and humbled by their sense of public service. Ever since, our art has been dominated by reflections on the aftermath of war and the survival of the past into the present.

The imagery:
The overall image is dawn light during winter illuminating a pathway through eucalypt trees and bush towards sunlight. The inset images are a combination of departures to war by ship from Australia punctuated by visual comments (snaps of these young men, those who were about to enlist). We have deliberately chosen to make these images almost monochromatic—very tonal with a subtle but definite minimum of colour—since it seems to us, counter-intuitive though that seems, that the weavers at ATW have repeatedly demonstrated enormous, subtle virtuosity in translating very tonal images with precise grey ranges into tapestry (we are thinking of the remarkable Brook Andrew and David Noonan commissions of recent years).