Euan Macleod  
 


 

Boneyard
Niagara Galleries Melbourne
5th to 3rd April

It was Chris Pugsley who first got me thinking about Gallipoli after he gave me a copy of his book The Anzacs at Gallipoli. Reading this, along with his personal accounts of how the place had profoundly affected him stirred my interest in going there, along with exploring the notion of remembrance. In particular, how we remember and how the land remembers.

Euan Macleod, February 2016

Contact Niagara Galleries for further information.

CONFRONTATIONAL LANDSCAPE

I have been to Gallipoli many times.I went there first in December 1980, it was winter and at the time the Gallipoli Peninsula was still under Turkish military control. Apart from the gardeners working for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, I was the only visitor in the five days I was there. I still remember the shock of my first encounter with the landscape. It was evening and I Had difficulty reading the map and asked the taxi driver to stop when I saw a cemetery near the beach. I walked into the cemetery and almost the first headstone that registered was that of Private John Simpson Kirkpatrick, the 22-year old stretcher bearer in the 3rd Australian Field Ambulance who is today a figure of legend, known as Simpson, the man and his donkey, killed on 19 May 1915. Suddenly where I was overwhelmed me, and as a 33-year old professional army officer, I burst into tears while the taxi driver behind me watched in bemusement.

Those five days changed the course of my life. I was conscious of walking in a landscape where evidence of war was everywhere to be seen: from the trenches, to the carpet of bones that lay all about. There was a story here that I did not know, that demanded more than rituals of Anzac Day commemoration. I feel it still, every time I return.

These are the themes that Euan Macleod battles with in his paintings. I still believe that when I am searching for a particular piece of ground or trench on Gallipoli that the ‘boys’ will tap me on the shoulder when I am in the right spot. There is always a sense of unseen company when I visit the cemeteries and walk the ground. The bones are less obvious than they once were, but skull fragments, a thigh bone or splinters of rib bone still have the power to shock. It reminds one that for all of the memorialisation and the transformation of the battlefield into a national park that is visited by hundreds of thousands each year, men fought and died here in trenches often only a few metres apart.

The images of Anzac Cove: The Sphinx, The Nek and the road along Second Ridge marking the Anzac front line are so familiar, yet still so strange. It is such a tiny piece of ground, yet the gullies and ridges, covered with thick native thorny oak, make a 100 metre walk an exhausting exercise, where one loses all sense of direction. Macleod’s paintings ask the same questions that each visitor to Gallipoli is confronted with: who are these men who fought here? How did they endure? Why were they here? Could I do this? And what do I tell my children and family about what I have seen? Macleod’s Gallipoli landscapes demand answers; they gnaw at you long after leaving the gallery. Gallipoli does that too.

Christopher Pugsley

Lieutenant Colonel (Retd) Christopher Pugsley, ONZM, DPhil, FRHistS is a New Zealand military historian. He is author of some 19 books including Gallipoli: The New Zealand Story, and The Anzac Experience: New Zealand, Australia and Empire in the First World War.

 

     

A fragment of a memory of travel
A travelogue of works on paper 2015-16

Watters Gallery
1-19 November 2016


'A fragment of a memory of travel within a fiscal year'
Cooktown, June 2016

"The night was so very sultry”*

Cooktown on a winter's evening, a sweeping motel veranda, below which had earlier seen the town celebrate the arrival of Cook the legendary traveller. The symbolic re-enacted sounds and smoke of musket and cannon fire are now muted by the darkness enveloping the Cook River. For better or worse, Captain Cook has come and gone again for another year.

For now, this ubiquitous Aussie motel is a traveller-vortex where disparate bikers, backpackers and nomads, grey or otherwise, all briefly converge on a panoramic veranda for whatever reason, far removed from whatever happened 236 years ago. Un-removed, a painter works amongst them here, in the moment, in the nightscape. A familiar figure he paints is bathed in eerie yellow - emanating from the mozzie 'fluoros', the only light-source. How can he interpret his palette under this alien hue-sapping aura? Unperturbed, a prolific output of figures melting into the darkness of the disappearing river ensues, perhaps with the anxiety of needing to fill every second and record every detail.

But for now, the grey nomad audience(and, "I dunno about art but...." banter) is too much. The painting has stopped. Inside, the day's work is spread on the motel bed, floor and Instagram, like the fishers' catch on Cooktown Wharf. The wharf and the fishermen and their 4WD's are there in paint. So is Archer Point, on Yuku Baja Muliku country, the aqua sea, jagged rocks that impressed upon the model's arse, billowing tropical clouds hovering over the figure like wings fleeting on a hot gusty day and Nguurku (Rocky Island). Did the Barque Endeavour weave past here on such a sultry night, beginning the tale of two cultures?

Geoff Dixon

Artist and friend of Euan Macleod

*Charles Dickens' "A tale of two cities"