Sufferings of War and Service
The Australian War Memorial has worked with veterans and their advocates to commission a work of art to recognise and commemorate the suffering caused by war and military service. This art work represents those affected by operations and during training; in war and on peacetime service.
For Every Drop Shed in Anguish will provide a place at the Memorial for those who have experienced and witnessed the ongoing trauma that can result from service, and for Memorial visitors to reflect on this experience.
By providing overdue recognition and understanding of the scars caused by service, both seen and unseen, it is hoped that this work of art will assist someway in recovery.
“It is hoped the sculpture will provide a point of connection to all who have suffered as a consequence of service, whether their own, or someone close to them. ….remarkable sculpture will recognise that the blood, sweat and tears shed in anguish, whether in training, deployment or operations was not in vain”
Matt Anderson, Director of the Australian War Memorial
Historically, this suffering has not been acknowledged. Attention is rightly given to those who died during war. However, those who survived and were left with mental suffering from wounds and injuries sustained in service, or exposure to intense trauma, dangerous or life-threatening conditions, often felt forgotten.
This commission follows discussions with current and former members of the Australian Defence Force, and the family members of those who have served, about how best to recognise those who have suffered as a result of their service.
Australian artist Alex Seton was unanimously selected by veterans and their loved ones to create this work of art. For Every Drop Shed in Anguish, a field of sculpted Australian pearl marble droplets, will installed in the Sculpture Garden in 2023.
“I like that this piece has no heroes. It is a space for everyone to be acknowledged or educated. Whether a veteran, family member, partner or teacher, you can grieve, remember and educate our Australian community on the ultimate sacrifice of war.”
Connie Boglis, partner of Afghanistan veteran, Jesse Bird, who died by suicide
“Every droplet has a unique shape, defined by its delicate surface tension, as if about to burst. Their rounded liquid forms suggest blood, sweat or tears — for every drop ever shed in anguish. Most importantly, when touched these forms reveal themselves to have an inner strength and resilience that provides hope and promise of healing.”
“I sincerely believe that Alex Seton’s work will enhance our ability to continue the conversation we have begun within the walls of the Memorial – this story must be transferrable to the national discourse – a truth telling of how war does come home and how accumulative service does have consequences. Alex’s vision, while speaking to this truth, opens the horizon to hope and new promise. The Australian Veteran Community and most significantly – their families need to know and feel this hope and new promise”.
Karen Bird, mother of Jesse Bird
Alex Seton, For Every Drop Shed in Anguish (artist concept), image by Mr.P Studios
Warning: the following stories discusses suicide and post-traumatic stress disorder. If you or someone you know needs help, support is available. Contact details for support services are available at the foot of this page.
About the Artist
Alex Seton (b. 1977) is an Australian artist best known for his marble carving. He uses the techniques and languages of classical sculpture to create unexpected contemporary forms. His recent work engages with current political issues impacting Australia, particularly in relation to conflict and nationhood. Seton’s work grapples with grand narratives through a humanist lens. His work As Of Today (2011–), which memorialises those Australians who lost their lives as a result of service in Afghanistan, is displayed at the Australian War Memorial.
Alex Seton’s work has been exhibited in Australia and internationally and is held in public and private collections. He is represented by Sullivan+Strumpf, Sydney and Singapore.
“The concept of unique drops of blood, sweat and tears touches my soul. It reflects the stories and struggles of many of my friends, their families and their loved ones. It is an open and accessible space that will provide a powerful sense of place for many veterans and their families.”
Ben Farinazzo, veteran with PTSD
Development of Sufferings of War and Service is supported by veterans with lived experience of wounds, injuries and mental illness sustained as a result of service, and their families; the Australian Federation of Totally and Permanently Incapacitated Ex Servicemen and Women; Soldier On; the Department of Veterans Affairs; and the Department of Defence. Representatives from ex-service organisations were consulted in the development of this commission.
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