Geelong artist Lianne Gough has been selected as a finalist in the $20,000 Gallipoli Art Prize.
Lianne Gough’s oil painting Indigenae Milites is one of 35 works shortlisted for the art prize which was established “to preserve the special qualities of loyalty, respect, love of country, courage and comradeship”. Gough’s monochromatic painting depicts indigenous servicemen from WWI through to Vietnam who served and died in the line of duty. It is estimated over 400 Indigenous Australians fought in the First World War with this number increasing to possibly thousands in the Second World War, Vietnam and other conflicts.
Gough’s work also pays tribute to the contribution of indigenous soldiers who, upon their return to Australia, faced indefensible racial discrimination even though they had served to protect Australian and Commonwealth interests. Indigenous Australians could not vote or buy property and were not granted land under the soldier settlement scheme. Incredibly, they were even banned from Returned Servicemen League Clubs.
Gough sourced images from the Australian War Memorial online database and spent several weeks researching the portraits. The actual painting process took about a week to paint but as Gough points out, it is also the outcome of a lifetime painting.
“I usually say it has taken 58 years, 9 months, 3 days and 4 hours to paint,” Gough says. “I reckon it has taken all my life to be able to paint like that.”
Gough did not plan a monochromatic painting but as she worked from old photos, it soon became clear that a neutral palette captured the era best. She tried adding some colour but she wasn’t happy with it and removed it. However, the suggestion of a small red poppy still remains on the pocket of one of the soldiers.
Gough’s painting was selected from a record number of 133 entries. She says she is thrilled to have been selected. “I was lucky. Lucky to get hung and it is very pleasing,” she says from her Geelong West studio. “I was looking for an interesting subject and having won the prize in 2007, I wanted to paint something different.”
The winner of the prize went to Peter Wegner for his oil painting Dog in a Gas Mask.