Battlefield trip inspired Gallipoli artist

Greta Stonehouse
(Australian Associated Press)


A visit to a famous French battlefield where Australian diggers fought to the end in WWI provided the inspiration for this year’s 2018 Gallipoli Art Prize winner, a century after the combat finally ceased.

Sydney artist Steve Lopes won the honour – which carries a $20,000 prize – with his piece ‘Exposed Wood, Mont St Quentin’, an oil painting which took him four months to complete.

Mr Lopes said the location was particularly poignant for its historical significance within Australian military history but was surprised during his visit to the site that the old battlefield was nestled in the woods, almost forgotten.

“All these villagers who are living amongst this battlefield and they are going about their everyday lives in the farmlands which are really peaceful, and then you have this place where 3000 men died,” Mr Lopes told AAP.

“Back here in Australia, we take it for granted what our troops did. This symbolised that for me.”

In August 1918 Australian troops were outnumbered when they attacked five German Divisions – at a tactical advantage – entrenched on higher ground at Mont St Quentin.

Over four days of intense fighting, the Australians captured 14,500 German troops forcing them to retreat to the Hindenburg Line where they eventually lost the war.

Lopes beat 32 other finalists for the art prize announced Wednesday.

Highly Commended prizes went to Craig Handley for ‘The Fox and the Night Cannon Men’, and Rodney Pople for ‘Goulburn War Memorial at 3am’.

This year marks the centenary of the official end of hostilities in the First World War involving Australia.

The Gallipoli Art Prize is open to Australian, New Zealand and Turkish painters who are asked to paint in line with the themes of loyalty, respect, love of country, courage and comradeship as expressed in the Gallipoli Club’s creed.

The winning landscape will be on display at Bondi Junction RSL Club until April 27.

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