To Australians and New Zealanders ANZAC DAY is one of the most important days in our year. It falls on the 25th of April each year being officially named Anzac Day in 1916.1 ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps and on the 25th of April 1915 Australian and New Zealand soldiers formed part of the allied expedition that set out to capture the Gallipoli peninsula.These became known as Anzacs and the pride they took in that name continues to this day. 1
What also continues strongly today is the deep respect and love we have for those men and women who have fought, many losing their lives, to keep us safe and free from tyranny.
The public recognition of the sacrifices that were made is forefront on the day when Commemorative services are held at dawn – the time of the original landing in Gallipoli – across the nation. Later in the day, ex-servicemen and women meet to take part in marches through the major cities and in many smaller centres.1
What isn't obvious and often forgotten is that those who have been deeply touched on a personal level by any war, often, on days such as this, take a few moments to remember and reflect with love on those they know and who may have died long ago but who will never be forgotten.
In the small idyllic coastal town of Port Elliot on the beautiful Fleurieu Peninsula in South Australia lives the naive artist John Rowdy Wylie who twice a year (for Anzac Day and Remembrance Day) dedicates his time and emotional energy to producing a painting in recognition of those who have fought to preserve the freedom we enjoy.
In his shed, surrounded by the tools of his trade and memories of those he loves, Rowdy creates a visual narrative that takes us back in time across the world to an unforgiving environment - lest we forget.
I will now let Rowdy take over and describe the historical context as illustrated in the composition of this year's Anzac painting:
Finished the “Gallipoli” composition today…. Being a war painting there is a lot going on… needed to highlight the relevant elements that transpired on the battle field for the ANZACS and also the Ottoman Empire Troops (Turkey)….
Paintings of this nature require a dedication:
The WWI 1915 “Gallipoli Campaign” where Australians and New Zealanders fought side by side under catastrophic war conditions... fighting “hand to hand” combat against the “Ottoman” soldiers in the battle field area known as “no man’s land” (in between the trenches)…. Also in the Ottoman’s heavily fortified trenches.. which had a canopy of timber logs over the top… this had to be dismantled in the attack…
This battle cemented the two nations of Australia and New Zealand together and they became known as the ANZACS… “Holding the Line”…
Over many years of remembrance… the outcome of the 1915 WWI Battle at Gallipoli Cove has united not two but three nations… Australia, New Zealand and Turkey.. (the “Ottoman Empire”!!) which I have recognised with the Turkish soldier being included on the right. Each year a “Memorial Dawn Service” is held at “Gallipoli Cove” Turkey… on the 25th April to commemorate our ANZACS who sacrificed so much for our Commonwealth Countries' Freedom, Independence and Homeland Security.
“The Trenches of Lone Pine” battle commenced on the 6th of August to the 10th of August 1915… Our friends in Turkey respectfully host the “Remembrance Day Service” each year on the 25th April…
Let us examine the painting in detail because, as in all of Rowdy's paintings, there is a narrative being woven across the canvas, both through the choice of subject matter and the painting techniques he so carefully chooses to employ.
In the painting Australian and New Zealand soldiers are placed on the left with their foe, the Turkish soldier on the right. All three gaze down on the destruction being wreaked below. The country flags of the Anzacs stand out from the landscape towering above the iconic Rising Sun emblem which adorns the slouch hat worn by Australian soldiers.
Proudly worn by soldiers of the 1st and 2nd Australian Imperial Force in both World Wars, the 'Rising Sun' badge has become an integral part of the digger tradition. The distinctive shape of the badge, worn on the upturned side of a slouch hat, is commonly identified with the spirit of Anzac.1
Equally iconic are the red poppies which Rowdy has included as these have become the international symbol of remembrance for many nations.
In soldiers' folklore, the vivid red of the poppy came from the blood of their comrades soaking the ground. In England in 1919, the British Legion sought an emblem that would honour the dead and help the living. The Red Poppy was adopted as that emblem and since then has been accepted as the Emblem of Remembrance.1
I find Rowdy's technique of pasting the soldier's figures into the scene fascinating and appropriate. They appear as no longer an intimate part of the scene as they have lost their lives and with this their hopes and dreams. Rowdy has the knack to show our heroes as portraits and part of the history but no longer involved in the action taking place in the landscape below.
And in the landscape below beneath the flags, the guns blast away at an impossible task against the strength of the Turks who are dug deep into their trenches in the surrounding hills close to the shoreline. In the far right bottom corner of the scene a lone bugler mirrors the lone pine which has come to name and symbolise the horrific Battle of Lone Pine over a century ago but never forgotten.
Rowdy Wylie applies his touch of magic to the beachhead landscape features using the orchre of the sandy terrain to great effect in contrasting the visual noise of war. If you look very carefully into the painting you can see the pale figures of the soldiers made tiny and vulnerable by the towering cliffs and impossible task they had been assigned to face.
The irony of the Australian soldiers fighting and dying in the sand that had been so close to their hearts back home on glorious Australian beaches is not lost on the viewer.
Rowdy Wylie isn't content to only paint a commenorative narrative in recognition of the scarifices made by the armed forces, he believes a painting is not finalised unless you complete the work in a frame fashioned from recycled timber.
ART COMPOSITION DETAILS/HISTORY
Title: Gallipoli – 1915
“The Trenches of Lone Pine”
Artist: John (“Rowdy”) Wylie
Fleurieu Peninsula - Port Elliot S.A.
Medium: Oil on Canvas
Size: H100cms x W100cms
Date: “ANZAC DAY” - 25th April 2023
The “Gallipoli”– 1915 painting - “The Trenches of Lone Pine” is dedicated to the Australian & New Zealand Forces - the ANZACS who sacrificed so much for both the Commonwealth & our countries.. protecting world freedoms…. homeland security & independence…
This painting has been inspired by three incredible people who have supported me in researching the elements for the composition & providing “remote mentorship” & critique of composition...
My sincere thanks to…
The late: Mr John Pickup OAM - member of the “Brushmen of the Bush” Broken Hill & ABC Broadcaster NSW…
Anne Newman – Editor in Chief AnArt4Life Australia..
Mr Jeff Kenyon – Curator Port Pirie RSL “Military Museum” SA…
And we thank Rowdy Wylie for his wonderful contribution over all the years to making sure that the AnArt4Life blog can continue to show our deep recognition and appreciation on Anzac Day and Remembrance Day.
Rowdy donates each of the paintings in his Remembrance Series to an RSL (The Returned and Services League of Australia) museum to be placed on show so that others can learn more about this significant part of our history.
This coming August will mark the 50th anniversary of the end of Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War with a National Commemorative Service in Canberra. Rowdy is busy again in his shed creating a painting in recognition of this occasion which we will be proud to showcase on the 18 August 2023.