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Sappers & Shrapnel: Contemporary Art and The Art of the Trenches

Home > Adelaide > Art | Exhibitions | Free | Galleries | Remembrance Day
by Paula McManus (subscribe)
Photography obsessed writer and urban explorer. Lover of nature, art and long weekends. Adelaide, South Australia.
Event: -
The Detritus of War
Helmets, wedding dresses, angels and weaponry. The Sappers & Shrapnel exhibition at the Art Gallery of South Australia, inspired by the making of art from war souvenirs, is profoundly moving.

South Australian Art Gallery
Returned Serviceman by Richard Lewer (©paula mcmanus)

The collection has come from the Australian War Memorial and includes works from artists across Australia and New Zealand. The exhibition is supported by the Australian Government's ANZAC Centenary Arts and Culture Fund.

The objects on display have been either crafted from or inspired by the trophies of war - the collectables from the trenches. The arts represent war and conflicts ranging from World War 1 to the present day.

South Australian Art Gallery
Spatial Operations by Baden Pailthorpe (©paula mcmanus)

Some tell the stories of the conflicts from the soldier's point of view. Some tell the tales of the prisoners, the refugees and the civilians who are caught up in the violence of war.

A series of dioramas, created by artist Richard Lewer are simply spellbinding to view. The detail is meticulous. There are hospital scenes, life in the trenches, a sniper laying in wait, the stories of the Christmas truce and the Angel of Mons - all depicted from the battles of World War One. His displays are tiny in size, but large in their impact.

South Australian Art Gallery
WWI Diorama by Richard Lewer (©paula mcmanus)

A huge wall display, made up of 210 papier-mache helmets are striking. Representing the 'mind of the military', each helmet is a cast of the helmet belonging to Special Operations soldier Ben Roberts-Smith, a recipient of the Victoria Cross - the highest award in the Australian honours system. The helmets are the creation of Baden Pailthorpe - the inaugural artist in residence at the Australian War Memorial.

Another wall of life jackets is spotlit - it is made up of the life jackets that were washed up on the beaches of Chios. It's where more than 3000 asylum seekers lost their lives while trying to make the dangerous journey from Syria to Greece.

South Australian Art Gallery
Life Jackets by Ben Quilty (©paula mcmanus)

Seemingly out of place are a gallery of wedding dresses. Beautiful designs, full of sparkle and the promise of a happy day. The story behind them tells of Raghda Alrawi, a young Syrian dress designer whose life was threatened because she made dresses on naked mannequins. She was forced to flee her country as the crime was punishable by death. The dresses in the gallery were made by Raghda while she was in a refugee camp.

South Australian Art Gallery
Wedding dress by Raghda Alrawi (©paula mcmanus)

There are also some fantastic exhibition themed print publications available to purchase in the Gallery Shop.

Please visit this special exhibition, it is extraordinary.

South Australian Art Gallery
I Did Not See It Coming by Olga Cironis (©paula mcmanus)

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Why? See historic examples of trench art from the Australian War Memorial collection
When: Open every day, 10am to 5pm
Phone: 8207 7000
Where: Art Gallery of South Australia
Cost: Free
Your Comment
It is a memorable exhibition. The wedding dresses are my pick of the bunch, they seem to float in that room. Wonderful photography Paula, thank you.
by Jenny Esots (score: 3|1399) 1333 days ago
An amazing collection would be great to see all this wonderful art.
by Jay Johnson (score: 3|1368) 1327 days ago
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