‘I dedicate her to the mothers who serve’: Portrait of a breastfeeding maidservant wins Defense Art Prize

A portrait depicting the conflict between being a mother and a military service member has won a prestigious art award administered by the Australian War Memorial.

Retired Major Anneke Jamieson won the Napier Waller Art Prize 2022 for her portrait entitled The Promotion.

Open to all current and former Australian Defense Force service personnel, the Napier Waller Art Prize aims to encourage artistic excellence, promote the transformative power of creativity and raise awareness of the experiences and talent of service personnel.

This year’s winning artwork of a uniformed maid breastfeeding her child is now being added to the National War Memorial collection.

In her artist statement, Ms Jamieson said the promotion was a manifestation of her conflict between being a mother and serving in the military.

“The mother in me could never make peace with the officer I wanted to be,” she said.

“I have always admired the leaders I have served with – they give so much of themselves to their people. When our second and third children arrived, it was clear that I couldn’t be both the officer I wanted to be and the mother I had to be.”

“I dedicate her to the mothers who serve; to their sacrifices and conflicting hearts’

Ms Jamieson said the maid in the portrait was not meant to be her, but that the work was inspired by her own experiences and the experiences of others around her.

She dedicated the portrait to all soldiers who are also mothers, and to their families.

Charlie by artist Andrew Littlejohn also discussed the sacrifices of families and children of defense personnel.Delivered: Australian War Memorial

“I had incredible support from my husband and the military, but it didn’t change my ability to give of myself. Nor did watching friends help manage conflict with grace and determination. My choice was difficult but clear and ultimately empowering. ” she said.

“I dedicate her to the mothers who serve; to their sacrifices and conflicted hearts, and to the families who support them.”

‘If you’re willing to look at it from a different angle, you can only be better off’

Glen Braithwaite’s entry, titled Falling Flying Driving Drowning, was painted with ink and bleach on a canvas made from recycled Commando strips and a shredded floppy hat, and was one of 14 highly acclaimed works this year.

An ink and bleach painting of two falling people.
‘Flying Falling Diving Drowning’ by Glen Braithwaite, who says the play is about learning to overcome unconscious biases.Delivered: Australian War Memorial

He said the piece, which is mounted on a 360-degree rotating bracket that allows any part of the painting to be the top, was an exploration of his “unlearning unconscious biases” around post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and military service.

“I have some unconscious biases – now conscious biases – around PTSD and trauma because I’ve been to surgery, I’ve seen things and my perspective on those things I’ve seen was ‘okay, yeah, that was terrible,’ but I I didn’t take any trauma away from it, and yet a person standing next to me has trauma,” he said.

“Their perspective, their history, what they grew up with, the cumulative effects of their upbringing are all things that contribute to how they view the world.”

A man in a suit rotates and swivels painting.
Artist Glen Braithwaite with his work Flying Falling Diving Drowning, which is mounted on a 360 degree rotating bracket.ABC News: Chantelle Al-Khouric

Braithwaite said that shredding and recording both his first floppy hat and the Commando comics he read as a child represented his life experiences as the foundation on which he saw the world.

“I suddenly realized that I had to put my history in the canvas. I am who I am because of how I grew up and my experiences, and so that ended up being shredded and absorbed,” he said.

He said he hoped anyone who saw Falling Flying Diving Drowning would see it as an invitation to consider other perspectives and explore unconscious biases they might have.

“However they do that, whatever the subject, by looking at something from a different perspective, you get a better understanding, or at least an appreciation or some empathy for what you’re looking at,” he said.

“If you’re willing to look at it from a different angle, you can only be better off.”

This year’s shortlisted entries are ‘of an extremely high standard’

An acrylic painting of a spatter of blood between two feet.
‘Blood in my shadow’ by Jon Oliver, which was highly acclaimed in this year’s Napier Waller Art Prize.Delivered: Australian War Memorial

The winning piece was chosen from a shortlist of 14 highly acclaimed entries, all of which will be on display in an exhibition at Parliament House until 20 November.

The exhibition can also be viewed online, with 28 nominated entries eligible for the People’s Choice Award.

Themes explored by the nominated works include mental health and trauma, the impact of moving on children and families of military personnel, and current events surrounding the Australian military.

Head of art at the Australian War Memorial, Laura Webster, said the shortlisted pieces were of high quality and represented a variety of artistic media.

“This year’s shortlisted works are of an extremely high standard,” she said.

“The winning work is very important because it tells the story of women and mothers in the Australian Defense Force.”

The award is sponsored by The Hospital Research Foundation Group, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and Thales Australia, and is supported by the University of Canberra

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