Darrin Free

Adapt, Improvise, Overcome


Highly commended

ink and watercolour on paper
60 x 42 cm each 

Artist statement

Three ideals I learnt as a young recruit at Kapooka 1989. Three works of watercolour and ink tell a story from my life as a soldier.

Adapt: A boy from Tasmania, I deployed to Somalia 1993. Nothing could have prepared me for what I would experience. Red represents The Stranger’s blood that covered me. I could not save him. I carried many wounds with me from Africa.

Improvise: Back home the nightmares begin. I’m told “Harden up, sunshine.” Black portrays the heavy burden of depression and responsibility. Edges are fraying, darkness spilling out. I must not fail. I soldier on for 20 years.

Overcome: Get help or lose your family. My service ended in 2014. This represents me unpacking and looking at service life, which was incredibly hard to do. Individual segments, tidy until deployment, where fracture occurred and parts of me were lost. Grains of wheat are shown, food I distributed in Somalia and East Timor. Ward 17 Repat, where a new path emerges. My journey continues from Soldier to Artist. Drawing is meditative, cathartic and healing. The final segments are evolved, bigger and stronger. They symbolise becoming whole again, remembering the past while embracing the future.

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