“The artwork is an expression of acceptance of being broken or imperfect."
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. The art work represents those affected by operations and during training; in war and on peacetime service.
In December 2021, a 19-tonne block of marble was delivered from the red dirt of outback Queensland to a warehouse in the inner-west of Sydney.
Over the next two years, the rough-hewn block will be transformed by artist Alex Seton into a commemorative artwork, For Every Drop Shed in Anguish, for the sculpture garden at the Australian War Memorial.
Alex selected the warm pearl marble block from a quarry in Chillagoe, 140km west of Cairns. The block had been classified as B grade and rejected for the boutique European market, with its blood-red veins, splashes of orange and pink speckles considered unattractive to buyers looking for pristine white surfaces.
“The character of the iron red lines and colourful banded inclusion make the stone unique,” said Alex. “I think they are what makes it beautiful.”
Over coming months Alex will work the block into a series of polished droplets representing the blood sweat and tears shed by Australian veterans and their loved ones who have suffered as a result of service in the Australian Defence Force. For Alex, the faults in the marble represent the struggle of these veterans and those who care for them.
“The imperfections speak poetically to the internal scars caused by trauma that many of our veterans carry hidden within them.”
“When I’m choosing a block of marble, I am guided by the marks that are visible on the surface. Once the marble is carved and polished, these marks reveal incredible colours and patterns hidden deep within the rock.”
Artist Alex Seton selecting marble from the Queensland quarry for the Sufferings of War and Service sculpture at the Australian War Memorial.
Artist Alex Seton selecting marble from the Queensland quarry for the Sufferings of War and Service sculpture at the Australian War Memorial
The 19-tonne block of marble is lifted off the truck that transported it from Cairns to Sydney by a crane.
Artist Alex Seton and assistant, Mitchell Ferrie measuring the marble block for cutting.
The red, orange and pink markings on the outside of the marble guide the artist’s selection of the block.
Alex Seton’s assistant, Mitchell Ferrie, cutting the marble block with a diamond-tipped chainsaw. Alex described this particular block of marble as very hard.
After careful measurements were made by Alex and his assistant, Mitchell Ferrie, the marble was marked with a crayon and cut with a diamond-tipped chainsaw. A wire cutting technique will be used to split the block into smaller pieces before they are individually shaped by robotic machinery, and hand-polished by the artist.
Alex says that the transformation of the marble is symbolic. As it is cut, shaped and polished, the character of the stone is revealed, and faults become features.
“The artwork is an expression of acceptance of being broken or imperfect. This is a message we all need to hear.”
Veteran and post-traumatic stress disorder sufferer Pennie Looker helped select Alex Seton’s proposal. To her, the work speaks to her experience and provides hope.
“It tells me it’s ok to fall apart … there is strength and beauty in that … imperfections are what makes us individually perfect, no matter what we have been through.”
The Australian War Memorial has commissioned a work of art to recognise and commemorate the suffering caused by war and military service. The sculptural installation, For Every Drop Shed in Anguish, by artist Alex Seton, will provide a place in the Memorial’s Sculpture Garden for visitors to grieve, to reflect on service experiences, and to remember the long-term cost of war and service. A field of sculpted Australian pearl marble droplets, it will be made by the artist over the next two years and installed in the Sculpture Garden in 2023. For more information about the Sufferings of War and Service sculpture, visit here.
Defence All-hours support line – The All-hours Support Line (ASL) is a confidential telephone service for ADF members and their families that is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week by calling 1800 628 036.
Open Arms – Veterans & Families Counselling Service provides free and confidential counselling and support for current and former ADF members and their families. They can be reached 24/7 on 1800 011 046 or visit the Open Arms website for more information.
DVA provides immediate help and treatment for any mental health condition, whether it relates to service or not. If you or someone you know is finding it hard to cope with life, call Open Arms on 1800 011 046 or DVA on 1800 555 254. Further information can be accessed on the DVA website.