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ART40885

Image copyright: © Australian War Memorial,
Creative Commons License This image is licensed under CC BY-NC

ID number ART40885
Title Image for a dead man
Collection Art
Object type Painting
Artist Beattie, Ray
Place made Australia: Western Australia, Perth
Date made 1980
Medium synthetic polymer paint, collage on canvas
Measurement overall: 218.5 x 145 cm

Description

Infantry Combat badge (unofficial) on lapel of jacket, two Australia-Vietnam (1964-1974) medals and South Vietnam campaign medal 1964- on jacket, red ensign of Australian Merchant Marine folded on chair. The painting expresses a soldier's grief at the loss of comrades, it is intended to be a contemplative personalised statement about the repercussions of war and the artist's tribute to the dead. 'Image for a dead man' is a large photo-realist still life from a series of three paintings collectively titled 'Sentimentality kills'. Each painting in the series deals with the repercussions of war on Australian society, the artist personally, and the history of war art. 'Image for a dead man' is the most intensely personal of the three and is a direct response to a major aspect of the artist's experience of death in Vietnam. Beattie places a wooden chair against a cold grey wall; over it, draped the army jacket he wore in Vietnam. Painted on the left breast are his service medals and an actual infantry Combat Badge is pinned on the right side. Beattie paints his slouch hat and identity discs hanging from the back of the chair and a folded flag on the seat. An unplugged telephone socket and line are shown at the bottom of the painting. There is no person present but the jacket holds the shape of a wearer and the discs indicate an individual personality once existed. The painting addresses the impossibility of communication with the dead by the inclusion of the symbolic disconnected telephone line. Although Beattie survived the war, he has said that whenever he heard of another soldier's death he felt a part of himself also died. This feeling of loss is reinforced by the fact that the empty uniform is the artist's. A curious inscription on the back of the painting shows a completed game of 'hangman'. The words to be discovered would have spelt Beattie's name but the figure on the gallows has been finished before more than a few letters have been guessed: 'game over'.