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The Tugs of War: RSASA Members' Exhibition

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by Haydn Radford (subscribe)
Haydn Radford -A freelance writer born in Adelaide, who loves living here. I write about movies, theatre, entertainment, literary and art events. I am happy to promote & review your events.
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Images and words chosen to express grief, regret and thanks
The Tugs of War: RSASA Members' Exhibition
Tobruk by Dr. John Stuart Dowie AM, FRSASA 1915 - 2008. Painted from John's memory of being a Rat of Tobruk.

This exhibition is a tribute to what has made us the artists and people of today - proud to be Australian.

The Royal South Australian Society of Arts (RSASA) exhibition, The Tugs of War is a creative response by artists affected emotionally by war and conflict in the past 100 years. On the centenary remembrance of the joint engagement of Australian and New Zealand Defence Forces in the World War 1 battle at Gallipoli on 25th April 1915, a members' exhibition will be opened on Saturday, 18th April, 2015 at 2.00 pm by His Excellency the Honourable Hieu Van Le, Governor of South Australia in the RSASA Gallery, Level 1, Institute Building, corner North Terrace and Kintore Avenue, Adelaide.

The Tugs of War exhibition will display artworks relating paintings, sculptures, memorabilia such as old photographs and medals, letters and poems by those who have been touched by war themselves whether killed in action, died as a prisoner of war, or returned home unable to serve in action, often resulting in a total change of lifestyle for immediate and extended family. The members' exhibition is in remembrance of ANZAC Day and the ongoing conflicts around the world in the past 100 years.

The Tugs of War: RSASA Members' Exhibition
HOUGHTON WAR MEMORIAL by Artist, Brian Webber. Photograph courtesy of RSASA.

Director, Royal SA Society of Arts Inc. Bev Bills said, "The title of the exhibition The Tugs of War is aimed at encompassing our thoughts. Heart strings are tugged when family members are affected and when we see or read about conflict in other areas and countries whether the events were in the distant past or currently. Members through their art have expressed their thought in art works in many mediums with the story behind the work or a poem to reflect their thoughts. Some have brought in memorabilia in the form of old photographs or medals and other artefacts which form an important part of their family history."

The artists include Dr John Stuart DOWIE AM, Past President 1959 1962, Margaret Raymond (A former Signalwoman based at Keswick Barracks in 1942, who is now in her 90's); Neil Sheppard; Vincenzo Berlingieri, born in Italy with stories and memories as a child with his family; Neil Griffin who served in Vietnam. Some of the other artists are Nora Heysen, John Goodchild, Geoffrey Mainwaring, Eric Joliffe, Frederick Britton, Durham Rayner, Max Ragless and Gilbert Roach, Brian Webber, Metal Sculptor Dennis Roberts and Caricature and Portrait artist, Des Bettany (1929 - 2000).

The Tugs of War: RSASA Members' Exhibition
John Dowie Photo: Courtesy of RSASA.

John Dowie exhibiting with the RSASA in 1933. In 1940 he enlisted with the 2/43rd Australian Imperial Force and served in Tobruk, Palestine and New Guinea. He was part of the siege of Tobruk which lasted from April to end November 1941. From 1941 onwards he also worked in the Military History Unit of the AIF as an assistant to the official war sculptor Lyndon Dodswell. He was made a member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 1981, granted an honourary doctorate in 2004 and voted S.A. Senior Australian of the year. He was given a state funeral following his death in March 2008 aged 93.

The Tugs of War: RSASA Members' Exhibition
Margaret Raymond, 10 July 2014. Photograph courtesy of RSASA.

Artist, Margaret Raymond said, "I have chosen, using pen and ink, to relive memories of two Army experiences. I served as a member of the Australian Special Wireless Group of the Royal Australian Corps of Signals in WW2. Drawings were sketched on scraps of whatever paper I could gather."

The Tugs of War: RSASA Members' Exhibition
Sketch by Artist, Margaret Raymond. Photograph courtesy of RSASA.

Raymond said, "My recollection of my days as a Signalwoman based at Keswick Barracks 1942 include my first experience of filling large hessian bags with straw. This occurred under the watchful eyes of the Duty Sergeant. It was to be a familiar chore whenever we marched into a new Posting. How could I forget it?"

The Tugs of War: RSASA Members' Exhibition
Sketch by Artist, Margaret Raymond. Photograph courtesy of RSASA.

Raymond said, "The Second World War was reaching a serious stage for Australia with the fall of Singapore and bombing of Darwin .I decided to answer the call for women to join the Australian Corps of Signals. Having lost some previous friends and Schoolmates I decided to put my training and ambitions to become an Art teacher on hold and volunteer. In May 1942, I was accepted and commenced my Army career at Keswick where I became a signal woman in Area Signals."

"As records showed my Art training I was delegated to head a group of soldiers required to camouflage Dispatch Riders sheds and accommodation. Climbing on the roof I lined out the required areas which had to be filled with colour. This was a challenge. It was certainly the biggest Art work I had ever attempted."

The Tugs of War: RSASA Members' Exhibition
Forced march to Changi by Des Bettany. Photograph courtesy of RSASA.

Neil Sheppard currently paints full time and has taught painting/drawing workshops and enjoyed periods of invited "Artist in Residence." He and his wife live on Kangaroo Island maintaining his working studio and gallery Shep's Studio. .

The Tugs of War: RSASA Members' Exhibition
NEWS FROM HOME - Acrylic painting by Neil Sheppard. Photograph courtesy of RSASA.

Caricature and portrait artist, Des Bettany (1929 - 2000) was among the many POWs working around Singapore to clear up and salvage damaged equipment for the Japanese war effort. He later moved to Changi Gaol, and joined working parties which among other tasks were required to clear swamp country to build an airfield.

The Tugs of War: RSASA Members' Exhibition
Expulsion of Japanese from Changi Prison by Caricature and Portrait Artist, Des Bettany. Photograph courtesy of RSASA.

Des carried small sketch books with him, and recorded aspects of the voyage out, the actions in Malaya and Singapore, in various media including pencil, ink, water colour and pastel.

He continued his artistic endeavours during his new life as a P.O.W. As well as documentary sketches, he kept spirits up by producing a series of cartoons, some of which satirised his captors. He also became part of a 'production line' producing programmes for the many theatrical and musical entertainments which were produced during the years of captivity.

The Tugs of War: RSASA Members' Exhibition
Khahi on Parade by Des Bettany. Photograph courtesy of RSASA.

Artist, Dennis Roberts said, "Serving 20 years in the Australian Regular Army and reaching the ranch of Warrant Officer Class Two, it was an achievement and honour to serve my country. However, the time I served from 1973 1993 there were no conflicts in the 20 year period of time."

Roberts said, "Early days army cooks were drawn by the ranks of the Regiment. The quality of the food produced by these regimental cooks can be summarised by the famous WW1 catch cry 'who called the cook a bastard?' the retort being 'who called the bastard a cook?'"

The Tugs of War: RSASA Members' Exhibition
ARMY CATERING CORP by Dennis Roberts. Photograph courtesy of RSASA.

Roberts said, "My Corp was the Australian Army Catering Corp which was raised on the 12 March 1942. I would have loved to have made a sculpture in relation to my corps and the ANZACs. There were no cooks back then, hence 'Reflections' was made without any catering significance, but what I feel war was all about."

Roberts said, "This sculpture made entirely of scrap metal is my interpretation of the ANZACs of 1915. The two strands of barbed wire around the cross represent the trenches of war. The slouch hat with the rising sun represents the traditional Australian soldier. The 303 rifle with bayonet is the rifle of the Infantry. The dog tags belonged to the fallen soldiers. The poppy flower is for Remembrance."

The Tugs of War: RSASA Members' Exhibition
REFLECTIONS - By Metal Sculptor, Dennis Roberts, Photograph courtesy of RSASA.

Sadly it seems war stirs our emotions when our family members are affected when we see media reports concerning conflicts in other countries and areas, whether the events are in the distant past or in recent times. The members have expressed their thoughts creatively in various mediums with the story behind the artistic work to reflect their thoughts. The images and words are chosen to express grief, regret and sometimes thanks.

Lest We Forget. Exhibition curated by Rev Vikki Waller FRSASA, BAVA, B.Min, Cert. Min. RSASA President.

The Tugs of War: RSASA Members' Exhibition
Australian War Memorial. Photograph courtesy of War Poet, Robert John Jarrad.
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Why? This exhibition of paintings, caricatures, poetry, sculpture and memorabilia by artists touched by war is designed to increase the public's awareness of the ANZAC Spirit. Images and words are chosen to express grief, regret and sometimes thanks.
When: The Official opening 18 April. The exhibition is open until 24 May 2015
Phone: 08 8232 0450
Where: The Institute Building, on the corner of North Terrace and Kintore Avenue, Adelaide
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