Hold on to Peace - Image courtesy Ira Mitchell-Kirk

Hold on to Peace - Image courtesy Ira Mitchell-Kirk

Monday, 17 January 2011

Poppies for Peace

"Remember" (watercolour)
Sarah Scott, New Zealand portrait artist based in America, has chosen to represent the human aspect of war in her works for Legato. Sarah writes:
Both of my grandfathers served in the war and fought at Cassino. One of them lost his leg when serving in a tank brigade at Cassino, and the other, while sheltering in a dug-out behind Mt Trocchio, the Allied Observation Post, was buried alive. It's amazing to think of not only what strangers have gone through, but of what my own flesh and blood has endured.

The exhibition is in effort to remember the damage caused during the war and to continue forth with a message of peace. While it's very hard to imagine what the men and women went through at the time, I think it's very important that we try, and that we learn from our history.

I have submitted two works to the (Cassino) exhibition, 'Flowers From Rain' and 'Remember'. Rather than focus on a strong narrative background for my portraits I wanted to convey a story simply through facial emotion. The model I used was very different from my original concept but once I saw how expressive and haunted his eyes were, I knew I had to paint him. Of course I have included poppies in each work, to represent hope and peace, two things we must cling to whenever the world is dark and stormy.

"Flowers from Rain" (Watercolour)
For the New Zealand version of Legato at the Wallace Gallery in her home town of Morrinsville Sarah has painted a third portrait. She invites the viewer to join the young soldier in contemplating the bigger picture of the loss of life in battle, represented by the bed of poppies. This contrasts with the earlier work which references personal loss, and the first work which challenges the viewer to think about what he has seen, and to always remember those lost and the need for peace.

Rest in Peace

The mixed media works by Sally Blyth invoke images of the thousands of tombstones in war zones.

Sally's works, incorporating her own photographs, contain an irridescent paint that shows up only in certain angles. In the second exhibition (Roccasecca (FR) Italy) these works were surrounded by red cemetery memorial candles and this caught the gentle glow of the work. Combined with some spirtually evocative music by Hirini Melbourne this added a very special and haunting place of reverence at the end of the long gallery space.

Below: "Remembering" and "Remembrance"

Of her works in general Sally writes: Inspired by countries, their cultures and various eras of time, I love sourcing new ideas and materials, and devising innovative ways of interpreting and using them. I often incorporate my own photographic images into my work.

My aim is to evoke a sense of actually being in a particular place and time, rather than recreate an image which can be captured on camera. A symbol, a colour, a word, an image, an impression, a mood ... if the viewer can recall the feeling of being in that place; gain the desire to be there; experience that moment in time again ... then the art has done its work.

I use acrylics, oils, inks, woodstains, metallics and all sorts of mixed media in my work, on canvas and board, as well as more unusual backgrounds. Colour, texture and iridescence are important elements in my work, and by adding subtle touches and embellishments, I hope you will look beyond your first glance.

Interestingly enough the evocative nature of Sally's work in the ancient gallery space was itself almost impossible to catch by camera so is not recorded in images here.

Soldiers and Italian Civilians Remembered

Award-winning glass artist Lisa-Jane Harvey contributed three works to the Legato exhibitions. These are her works and text below:
In War we find Peace” (White cross with red angels)

Even in war Humanity can exist. During the battle of Monte Cassino in the third attack, the evening of March 16 1944 soldiers witnessed an evening of sheer terror and open war fare. The following day March 17th German and Allied forces put down their weapons and observed a temporary cease fire to assist the wounded and honour the those fallen. During the window of peace in such a savage battle soldiers shared cigarettes, exchanged stories and placed wagers on who would win the war.

The Red Cross is the symbol of humanity and peace in any war, it seeks respect for those fallen and wounded. Angels who guide those who have fallen and protect those who are wounded choose no sides, they offer compassion, they give us a message of Peace and Commemoration.

“In war we find Peace” seeks to invoke a sense of respect.

White cross fashioned from the Medal of St Benedict to honour the destruction of the Abbey
The Red Angels form the Red Cross symbol of humanity
The Red poppies honour the fallen soldiers on both sides from the battle
The Centre Angel is a Message of Peace and commemoration

Hand-crafted glass lamp-work rosaries:
Pray for our souls” (Red Rosary with Glass Cross)

Inspired by the beauty and significance of the Holy Rosary, “Pray for our Souls” seeks to honour and commemorate the thousands of women and children that were raped in the aftermath of Monte Cassino.

Montecassino was captured by the Allies on May 18, 1944. The next night, thousands of Goumiers and other colonial troops swarmed over the slopes of the hills surrounding the town and in the villages of Ciociaria (South Latium). Over 2,000 women, ranging in age from eleven to 86, suffered from violence, when village after village came under control of the Goumiers. Civilian men who tried to protect their wives and daughters were murdered without mercy. The number of men killed has been estimated at roughly 800.

The mayor of Esperia, a comune in the Province of Frosinone, reported that in his town, 700 women out of 2,500 inhabitants were raped and that some had died as a result. According to Italian sources, more than 7,000 Italian civilians, including women, children and some men, were raped by Goumiers
“Pray for our souls” seeks to not let this be forgotten

Our Father who art in Heaven” (White Rosary with Angel)
In prayer we find solace. “Our Father who art in Heaven” is a tribute to all soldiers throughout the history of time that have lost their lives and passed over. The Rosary is symbolic of the power of prayer and the Angel seeks to send a message to God to end all war and protect our future. This is a tribute to my Great Grandfather Samuel Cash, who fought in BOTH World Wars.

World War Two connections
Lisa-Jane’s great grandfather, Samuel Cash fought in World War and was present at the Battle of Dunkirk and part of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF). Samuel was sent home with injuries after being evacuated. His stories of bravery, fear and loss from the high casualties in the war are a reminder of the many men who gave their lives in the fight for freedom and human rights.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Paying Tribute

Linda Dickens, like many post-war children, grew up aware that the war films on television were not easy viewing for soldiers returned from war. Her father, Rudyard Dickens, says that he went to war a child and came home a "hardened old man". He signed up at 22, married his sweetheart and then set off for war.

By May 1941 he was serving in Sicily. When he was 25 his two brothers, aged 27 and 23, died far from home. The elder brother was killed in Tunisia, and the younger, wounded before that and invalided out, drowned when the hospital ship he was in was torpedoed by the Japanese in the Pacific Ocean. So close to home, but yet so far away.

Rudyard himself continued on to fight on in Luster Force with the 6th NZ Artillary. He achieved the rank of Seargent Major when he was serving in the Middle East. He returned to New Zealand in 1943 and was recalled to serve in the Pacific in April 1945.

Linda chose to pair a painting of text with her representation of Monte Cassino. Over the landscape hangs a painting of a banner bearing the words "In memory of the Battle of Cassino", translated into Italian.

Linda's research prior to painting these works was a journey of discovery. By applying to the New Zealand Defence Forces Personnel Records for his records, she was able to learn more about where her father was during the war. Her father had also been a keen photographer and had albums of photographs taken when on active duty.

Linda has very kindly donated her works of remembrance to be displayed in a public building in Italy.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Painting the Realities of War

Work by Stan Blanch, New Zealand artist resident in Australia, notes the decision making and instructions leading to the bombing of the Bendictine Abbey on Monte Cassino.

In his second work Stan references Picasso's "Guernica" where the dead horse is a symbol of the death and destruction of war. Behind the horse are the ruins of the Abbey.

It was interesting to watch the reactions of viewers to these works at Cassino. Men pondered at length the work depicting the decision to bomb the abbey, while women reacted with horror at the clarity of the message of destruction when they encountered the work with the very graphically painted dead horse.

One work was a place for careful consideration of options and military strategy, the other an uncomfortable reminder of the grim realities of war. That some were also uncomfortable with the placing of the German flag beside the horse seems to indicate how far we have come with peace and reconciliation since the dreadful events of WWII.

Images that challenge certainly help to clarify one's thoughts and this was the case for some viewers with both of Stan's paintings.

More than one viewer checked with the curator and the catalogue to confirm that both works really were painted by the same artist, indicating how closely they were studied by the viewing public.

Fragments of Memory

Lisa Taylor-King used family photographs and her own memories of Italy as the inspiration for her works for Cassino.

Lisa writes: My grandfather was Harry Domimico Sandri. He was born en route as his family moved from Trento to New Zealand. He later returned to Italy with the New Zealand Army Corps and fought at Cassino and Trieste. I often wonder how strange this "homecoming" was for him.

Harry married my grandmother after the war. Though he never talked about the war, we have recently rediscovered one small suitcase filled with photographs of his time in the Solomon Islands, Egypt, and Italy, and other mementoes. His war medals arrived separately in a little tin tobacco box. These half-lost relics smell like old things left behind, long stored away and forgotten.

Through my paintings for this show I have tried to reflect and understand just a little of this man's story. I have chosen to present some montages of images and medals from my grandfather's collection in honour of him. I have also selected two abstract landscapes that have their own sense of peace, freedom and space. They reflect a little bit of New Zealand and my impression of the Italian landscape. They are both but neither; instead they are the beauty of our natural environment, a bond shared by us all which will remain forever.

The second part of Lisa's contribution to Legato invokes a feeling of calm, allowing the viewer a space for quiet contemplation.

The Breath of Another Sunrise

Light Over the Horizon

At Peace

Thursday, 13 January 2011

One More Is One Too Many

Recent news of soldiers being killed in modern war zones brings to mind the mixed media work by Sophia Elise, "One More Is One Too Many"
Whether the numbers be few, and well reported in modern times of instant communication, or many, as in the war commemorated in Legato, one more death is one too many. Each soldier killed is a life cut short, a family in tears, distraught with grief, and another statistic reflecting the grim reality of war.

This work (one that is difficult to photograph but which drew many positive comments in Cassino) reflects those tears:
Title: Tears on Greenstone
Artist: Sophia Elise
Media: Acrylic and resin on canvas
Size: 38cm x 76cm

Sophia writes:
The inspiration for this piece came from the Tears on Greenstone at the Army Museum - (click here for link to this work).

On this "greenstone wall" that I painted are the names of family members and friends that have inspired many of the artworks in the Legato exhibition - there have been many tears shed by the participants of this exhibition and their families. This is in recognition of the tears of remembrance and the tears of loss and a reminder to us all to not let this happen again. We need to come together and work for world peace.

Thank you to all the artists who shared the names, stories and emotions with me on this very personal and heartfelt journey.

Title: Ripple Effect
Artist: Sophia Elise
Media: Mixed Media
Size: 60cm x 50cm

From Sophia's personal blog:
The title of this artwork says it all ....
Peace will spread like a ripple - starting small within ourselves and spreading outwards with our actions - Let every action be done with perfect gravity, humanity, freedom and justice, and perform it as though that action were your last. - Anon

It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance. - Robert Kennedy

Title: One World
Media: Mixed Media and Acrylic
Artist: Sophia Elise
Size: 40cm x 50cm

Other images by Sophia can be viewed here: Legato Exhibition by Sophia Elise

Poignant Photographs

Part of the larger composition (photograph above), the individual images by photographic artist Lorraine Beattie each tell a story and are worthy of time and attention to read them well. In the digital age these works stand out as recording traces of history but also as an artistic and very humanitarian interpretation of the realities of war.

Crossing all cultures and reaching out metaphorically were these delicate images. Their apparent simplicity provides space for the individual viewer to read what is personally relevant regardless of nationality.


The photographs of tombstones bring an international reading; Lorraine's travel and research covered many countries and military cemeteries. We are reminded that war crosses boundaries and the ultimate sacrifice does not depend on culture or politics but is a tragedy for all people in all nations.
"Forever Young"

The cover image for the 2010 Legato depliant is the photograph "Freedom" by Lorraine. This image seemed to say it all; the pain, the beauty, past and present, the quiet hope for a peaceful future.
Central to the message of the cross-form presentation of the works is the striking colour of this message of hope. "Reaching Out"

All of these works are Limited Edition Photography on Giclee Canvas.

(For more images please go to the Legato photo page here.)

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

A First-hand Account of Time at Cassino.

Artist: Kari Lindsay-Beale
Title: "Legacy of a Soldier"
Size: 45cm long (necklace) + pendant drop section of 8cm length
Media: Lampworked Glass / Wearable Glass Art

Artist: Kari Lindsay-Beale
Title: "Lest we Forget"
Size: 45cm long (necklace) + pendant drop section of 8cm length
Media: Lampworked Glass / Wearable Glass Art

Artist: Kari Lindsay-Beale
Title: "Fields of the Fallen"
Size: 48cm long (necklace) x 3cm wide at the widest point
Media: Lampworked Glass / Wearable Glass Art

Work by Kari Lindsay-Beale has a strength that belies the fact that it is made of hand-made glass beads. Each of her pieces has a story to tell, beautiful yet sad.

Kari supplied the following information to support her work for the Legato exhibition:

My Grandfather, Major John Henry Beale (called Harry), was born in 1912 in Great Britain. He grew up in an army family, and lived in several countries including Palestine, India and South Africa before leaving his family at the tender age of 16 to sail to New Zealand and set up a life for himself there.

When Britain declared war against Germany in 1939, he enlisted as Private in the New Zealand Army 20th Battalion. He was commissioned as 2nd Lieutenant and embarked for the warzone in the 2nd NZ Expeditionary Force on active service to the Middle East.

In January 1941 he was promoted to Lieutenant and served in Greece, Crete (where he was wounded and much of his division killed), Egypt and Papua New Guinea. He joined the NZEF 11th Reinforcements in January 1944 with the rank of Captain, and was posted to the 26th Battalion in the battle on Cassino, Italy. He was then appointed to the Headquarters of the Allied Armies in Italy from September 1944 to May 1945 where he was raised to the rank of temporary Major.

When the war ended he returned to NZ, was raised officially to Major and served in the Army until he retired from it in 1961.

He was awarded several medals from his time in service, including: The MID Emblem, the 1939-1945 Star, the Africa Star, the Italy Star, the Pacific Star, the Defence Medal, the War Medal 1939-1945, the NZ War Service Medal and the Efficiency Decoration (TF). After retiring from the Army, Harry owned several businesses until his death in September 1999.

At the time of his death he was in the process of writing an historical account of his war-time experiences. This book was not finished in time to be officially published and is a treasured memory now for all of his family. He was a man who always took a keen and active interest in politics and occurences globally. He was a man of dignity, a great conversationalist and a great listener and we his family miss him immensely.

Here is an excerpt from his book titled "The price must be paid":
"The 26th Battalion had once again suffered heavy casualties and had been withdrawn from the line to await reinforcements....We sat on the hill overlooking the Abbey when the massive air attack was launched that demolished the Abbey. Germans refuted the claim that it was used an as observation post and claimed the neutrality of the Abbey had been respected. However when the Abbey was overrun by the Polish Brigade, I entered the Abbey and there were German Machine Gunners dead beside their guns throughout. So even though it was not defended earlier, the Germans had certainly taken advantage of the rubble and in the final stages of the battle used the Abbey for observation and siting gun positions....
Now that Cassino had been captured, and the landings of Allied troops at Anzio had consolidated and moved inwards, the Highway 6 to Rome reopened. We moved north again liberating Italian villages as we went. It was a period of great relaxation, with Vino flowing and much celebration from the liberated villages. It was a great change to be part of a victorious army, where seldom was a German plane seen. What a turnaround from the early days of Greece when the skies were full of the enemy. I started to feel that the end of the war was in sight but there were still some hard battles to be fought."
(pg.78 & 79 of 'The price must be paid' by Major John Henry Beale)

My Grandfather found it difficult to speak of the devastating effects that the war had on him - he lost many good friends there and in order to cope he had to block many of these emotions. He always preferred to speak primarily of the tactical moves and the events in history that were involved at the time, but he did shed tears with us on occasion.

He found great solace and comfort in Psalm 23 and the Hymn "I vow to thee, my country":
"I vow to thee my country - all earthly things above
Entire and whole and perfect, the service of my love,
The love that asks no question: the love that stands the test,
That lays upon the altar the dearest and the best.
The love that never falters, the love that pays the price,
The love that makes undaunted the final sacrifice.
And then there's another country, I've heard of long ago
Most dear to them that love her, most great to them that know
We may not count her armies: we may not see her king
Her fortress is a faithful heart, her pride is suffering
And soul by soul and silently her shining bounds increase,
And her ways are ways of gentleness and all her paths are peace."

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

A Family's Story

Rex (Joe) McLellan

Jenny Bennett has shared with us photographs of her mother Gwenda Ruth Apsey (later McLellan) during the war when she was in the WAAC (Womens Auxiliary Army Corps) in Hastings, her mother's fiance, Theo, who was killed in action, and her father Rex. This is as much her mother's wartime story as her father's story.

Jenny writes: My father Rex (Joe) McLellan fought at Cassino and was wounded in action on the 15 March 1944. He was in the 25th Battalion. My husband’s father, the late Peter Parry Heath, fought in the 27th Battalion and was also at Cassino. Both survived the war. My mother’s fiancé, Edward Francis Theodore Mullinder (Theo) was not so lucky. He was injured and then died when his stretcher bearers stood on a mine [28 May 1944].

Edward Francis Theodore Mullinder (Theo)

Gwenda Ruth Apsey

Rex McLellan (back right) convalescing after the desert campaign.

My mother has recently died and amongst her possessions was Antonio Ridge’s book “For Love of Rose – Story of the creation of the famous Peace Rose.” This has inspired the work for Legato.. The rose was developed in France by the French Meilland and the Italian Paolina families and went on to be promoted by the American Rose Society who said “We are persuaded that this greatest new rose of out time should be named for the world’s greatest desire; PEACE.” Millions of Peace roses were planted over graves all over the world and also in hospital grounds, public parks and private gardens (including my mother’s ).

"Peace Rose for Cassino"
Like many New Zealand artists Jenny Bennett has used text with images to convey her peace message.