Jon Oliver

Blood in my shadow

Image of artwork

Highly commended

acrylic on canvas
46 x 61 cm


Waiting for helicopter extraction after a battle in Afghanistan. I was exhausted, and didn’t know where or how to start processing what had happened, I just sat there staring at my shadow and my wet boots from an earlier creek crossing. Back at Camp Russell, a new mission, another gun fight, back to Russell and repeat. I can’t think about the risks, I have to suppress my emotions and just focus on achieving the mission.

I’m on coffin escort. Bringing our mates home to their devastated families for the last time. Heartbreaking …

Now I’m alone in my apartment. I know I’m relieved to be home, but I don’t feel it. I feel bereaved, angry and out of place. Standing in the shower, and the scab from where my wet boots had been rubbing is almost gone. It reminded me of waiting for that extraction, and I still don’t know how I’m going to start processing this. As the water dripped down off my face I knew my psychological wound was still bleeding.

I turned to painting and combined these memories to try and process my experiences, express my thoughts, stem the bleeding and regain some positive emotions.

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