A modern pilgrimage to the fields of Gallipoli

Guest curator Meredith Brice with artist Stephen Copland.

Guest curator Meredith Brice with artist Stephen Copland.

A new multimedia exhibition illustrates how friendship has knit together the war wounds of the Turkish and Australian people, 100 years after soldiers from both countries were hewn like blood-red poppies in the killing fields of Gallipoli.

'Contemporary Gallipoli', now showing at Cowra Regional Art Gallery, features works from both emerging and established artists from Canakkale, near the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey, and Australia, and explores the role art can play in healing.

A chance meeting in an airport led artists Meredith Brice and Stephen Copland to a cultural collaboration and friendship with artists in the Canakkale university's fine arts faculty.

Five years on from their pilgrimage to the Turkish seaport, they are in Cowra with the exhibition, in which death and beauty are masterfully intertwined.

"The exhibition is based on the conceptual idea of the friendship between the artists, working together to collaboratively interpret the theme of contemporary Gallipoli 100 years on," guest curator Meredith said.

"Through the exhibition, we've tried to return to the memories [of those at Gallipoli]. All the time we're trying to think back to what the narrative is, the many narratives, and then bring it into the contemporary era through materials and conceptionally-led artworks.

"It's about keeping the story going but looking at it through the perspective of friendship."

Artists featured in the exhibition include Ros Auld, Cenk Beyhan, Mark Davis, Ihsan Dogrusz, Kate Downhill, Dianne Jones, Burt Muller, Susan O'Doherty, Toby Roberts and Chris Sainsbury, as well as Meredith and Stephen.

Music, painting, drawing, printmaking, hand-built ceramics, sculpture, textile, mixed media installation, photomedia and digital animation are some of the ways the stories of the Australian and New Zealand soldiers who landed on Gallipoli cove have been brought into a modern context.

"When you're first walking around the show you're struck by the beauty of it and you think is that a contradiction because it's about Gallipoli," Stephen said.

"What I really like about what Meredith's brought together artistically is the diversity of ways that artists have imaginatively constructed a response to something that's pretty horrible."

Opening a day after the centenary of the battle of Lone Pine, in which 2,277 Australians and more than 7000 Turkish were killed or wounded, Meredith said the exhibition is a timely remembrance of the waste of war.

"I think what is significant is the way artists become the memorialisers," Meredith said.

"When all seen together, this is quite a powerful memorialisation of this absolutely horrific period in world history.

"This is not about glorifying war one bit, it's about showing how this was so shocking and such a loss to our nation and the waste of life."

'Contemporary Gallipoli' will launch tonight at 6.30pm with guest speaker Professor John Simons Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) Macquarie University.

The free exhibition will run until September 6.