Return to Anzac Cove: Your Friend the Enemy
25 April 2015 commemorates the centenary of the Anzac landings in Gallipoli during the First World War. The Battle of Gallipoli was a historical milestone because of the way that it defined “the Anzac legend” and affected Australian ideas of nationhood and the national character.
Your Friend the Enemy, the forthcoming exhibition at the ANU Drill Hall Gallery, features works by thirteen artists from Australia and New Zealand who have been inspired by their visits to Gallipoli in 2013 and 2014. Participants in these trips included the painters Deirdre Bean, Elisabeth Cummings, Euan Macleod, Guy Maestri, Idris Murphy, John Walsh, Luke Sciberras, Peter O’Doherty, Steve Lopes, Michael Shepherd, Amanda Penrose Hart and Leo Robba, and the documentary film maker Bruce Inglis. Their works explore the terrain as it now stands – both as a place of memory and as an example of nature’s resilience and renewal.
The eminent ANU historian Bill Gammage will launch the exhibition at the Drill Hall Gallery on 10 April at 6pm.
Bill Gammage’s major publications include two very influential books – The Broken Years: Australian Soldiers in the Great War, 1974 and The Biggest Estate on Earth: How Aborigines Made Australia, 2011.
The title of the exhibition was inspired by the discovery made by one of the artists: Idris Murphy found a collection of his grandfather’s letters written from Gallipoli to his fiancée. One letter recounted an exchange that took place between the Allies and the Turks: ‘We threw some tinned beef and jam over to them and in return they threw tobacco and cigarette papers. A couple of the parcels had notes in them written in French. One ran something to this effect: Our Friends the Enemy, we received your preserved meat, and send in return tobacco. Would be pleased if you could send a souvenir, and we will do the same… Your soldier friends Turks.’
In regard to this exhibition Andrew Yip writes: ‘Your friend the enemy brings new voices to the stories that have been told about Gallipoli. Of course, for artists looking back at the campaign a century later, it is impossible not to be consumed by the myth of Gallipoli – the meanings, legends and cultural narratives that we have attributed to it.‘
Indeed, most of the artists were conscious of following in the footsteps of CEW Bean, who is considered to be the architect in many respects of the “Gallipoli legend”.
Bean organised an expedition to Gallipoli in 1919, and with him went the painter George Lambert and the photographer Hubert Wilkins. When he arrived there, Lambert was greatly moved by the torn landscape and its still-gaping wounds: ‘“Evidence grins coldly at us non-combatants… and I feel thankful that I have been trained to stop my emotions at the border line”.
Yet he found himself gradually drawn to the beauty of the rugged terrain and to the brilliant Mediterranean light that bathed it – and his ambivalent responses were a precedent for the artists of our own time