Art Commission: The Anzac Memorial Centenary Project
The Anzac Memorial Centenary Project continues the tradition of artistic collaboration.
The art commission process
The artist - Fiona Hall
Fiona Hall is one of Australia’s most prominent contemporary artists. She works across a broad range of media including painting, photography, sculpture and installation. Recurrent themes include globalisation, natural history and the human impact, systems of classification, domestic order and other comparative structures.
Hall’s works transform ordinary, everyday materials into organic forms with both a historical and contemporary relevance and her meticulous attention to detail emphasises the beauty and fragility of the natural world.
Hall's career spans four decades, and continues unabated. Her work is represented in every major public art collection in Australia and she exhibits regularly in Australia and overseas.
"My proposed design for the Hall of Service is based upon material relating directly to service offered, across New South Wales. It utilizes the walls and floors, but leaves the interior of the Hall free of any 3-dimensional intervention. The absence of a 3-dimensional artwork in this space is intended to maintain and emphasize the spatial equilibrium and symmetry of the square Hall and its oculus. In design and content, it creates an informative and meditative place, at the threshold of the Hall of Silence and beyond." Fiona Hall, 2016
The art work
The walls in the Hall of Service will display the names of the towns, suburbs and settlements across NSW where men and women enlisted from for the First World War. The list of names encapsulates our early colonial history, and registers the country’s long time indigenous presence. It displays the geographical reach of the call to serve, and signals the willingness and enthusiasm of so many from diverse regions who answered the call to join the War. Alongside each place name will be displayed a sample of soil, collected from each listed locale.
The enlistment locations
During the First World War, it was not possible for the bodies of fallen soldiers to be returned for burial on home soil. This has greatly heightened our continuing sense of loss and grief, with the First World War battle site cemeteries remaining places of commemoration today.
Alongside each place name will be displayed a sample of soil, collected from each listed locale. "I regard the Hall as both an informative space, and also as a hallowed site to realise the enormity of the service and sacrifice given." Fiona Hall, 2016.
The soil collection program
The walls in the Hall of Service will display the names of the towns, suburbs and settlements across NSW where men and women enlisted from for the First World War.
The list of names encapsulates our early colonial history, and registers the country’s long time indigenous presence. It displays the geographical reach of the call to serve, and signals the willingness and enthusiasm of so many from diverse regions who answered the call to join the War.
There will be approximately 1,700 locations from throughout NSW displayed and alongside each place name will be displayed a sample of soil, collected from each locale.
As planning for the project is finalised, local communities will be engaged to participate in the collection of soil or attend an event to witness the soil being collected. An interactive digital platform will be available on completion of the Memorial build which will display information about the location where the soil was collected and stories from the First World War which apply to that location.
The new Hall of Service will also feature 100 sites of military significance to NSW service personnel, to honour more than a century of service and sacrifice. Thirty-one countries and jurisdictions will feature in the artwork.
The choice of sites was developed by the Anzac Memorial in consultation with the Australian Defence Force and military historians. As appropriate, a sample of soil collected from that site will be embedded beside each site name.
"Many of these sites are engraved in our national psyche: they are signifiers of the service and sacrifice of our military personnel and are names that have shaped and defined our sense of nationhood today." Fiona Hall, 2016
100 sites of military significance
The list of sites from across the world extends from 19th century battles through to modern-day Australian peacekeeping missions and honour more than a century of service.
The botanic selection
Flanders poppy (Papaver rhoeas) - Immortalised by Lieutenant-Colonel John McRae's poem In Flanders Fields (1915), became the enduring symbol of the war for veterans and remembered as the only flower to bloom in the shattered landscape of no man's land.
Aleppo pine (Pinus halapensis) - Lone Pine charge survivor L/Cpl Benjamin Smith sent an Aleppo Pine cone from the battlefield on which his brother was killed to their mother. A sapling germinated from that cone now stands at the Australian War Memorial.
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) - Valued in ancient times for its believed ability to improve memory - a sprig of rosemary is worn every Anzac Day as a symbol of remembrance. Its links to Anzac remembrance are made stronger as it was found growing wild on Gallipoli.
Lombardy poplar (Populus nigra ‘Italica’) - Intrinsic to the landscape of the Somme and Flanders battlefields of France and Belgium, the poplar became part of the collective memory of those who fought on the Western Front.
Gallipoli rose (Cistus salvifolius) - The delicate white flower grows wild in the harsh landscape of the Gallipoli Peninsula. When Australian historian Charles Bean led a team of historians back to Anzac Cove in 1919 they were moved to find Gallipoli Rose growing on the old battlefield.
Waratah (Telopea speciosissima) - The Waratah was among the first examples of Australian flora incorporated into our military heraldry and can still be found on the badges of NSW units.
Sydney blue gum (Eucalyptus saligna) and the Golden Wattle (Acacia pycnantha) - The families of Australian soldiers would often enclose gum and wattle leaves in their letters to the soldiers as mementos of home. The soldiers would burn the leaves to produce the evocative Australian scent of eucalyptus smoke.