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  • Writer's pictureFlow Australia

'A bit lost': art prize gives veterans a new calling

Napier Waller prize winners say art changed the trajectory of their lives after the military. The award highlights the experiences of defence force personnel.


Artist Anneke Jamieson with her painting “The Promotion” after being announced the winner of the Napier Waller Art Prize at Australian Parliament House in Canberra. Image AAP

The soldier sits in full service uniform, her military decorations on one breast, an infant at the other.


Retired army major Anneke Jamieson painted the soldier - who is seen looking away from her child - to capture a woman torn between two callings.


"After making the decision to leave the defence force and focus on my family, I was feeling a bit lost," Mrs Jamieson said.


"I felt like I still had more to give, but I needed to be there for my kids and that was the story I wanted to tell.


"What better way to tell it than by a mother who's breastfeeding, but who is not focused on the breastfeeding, she's entirely focused on her role."

Artist Anneke Jamieson says painting helped her process her time in the army.


The poignant image struck a chord, winning the Australian War Memorial's Napier Waller Art Prize in 2022, along with the people's choice award.


The Promotion, an acrylic and oil painting on canvas, became part of the institution's national collection.


The war memorial is calling on serving and former Australian Defence Force personnel to enter this year's $15,000 award, which continues to highlight the varied stories of service men and women.


"This prize displays the artistic endeavour, personal experiences and sheer talent of our service personnel," director Matt Anderson said.


Entries can be in any visual medium, including painting, photography, drawing, printmaking, digital works or sculpture.


Veteran Matt Jones won the 2020 award for his fabric work Yarn, an interpretation of the yellow and blue maritime Kilo signal flag.


The flag means: "I want to communicate with you".


The work and the act of yarning held deep personal meaning for Mr Jones, a former army major.


"To say it hasn't been an easy journey for me after leaving the army would be an understatement," he said when he won the award.


"It's been really difficult in a whole range of ways, and I'm on the other side of the breakers now as I swim through the surf."


Photographs, ceramics and line drawings have all been recognised in previous years.


Mrs Jamieson, an engineer who used to sketch to pass the time during overseas deployments, said painting helped her process her time in the army. 


She is developing an exhibition showing the positive parts of military life.


"Going through that process of painting her and and telling my story in an image made me feel like I was ready to move on and ready to start something new."


The art prize entries close on January 28.


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