Australian official war artists - Conflicts 1945 to today

Korean War

Two artists who had served during the Second World War were re–appointed during the Korean War.

  • Ivor Hele (1912–1993)
  • Frank Norton (1916–1983)

Ivor Hele, Adjusting rockets on jets, 77 Squadron, Korea, ART40325

Vietnam War

Two civilian artists were appointed during this war. Unlike earlier commissions, both were required to undergo jungle warfare training and expected to perform as active soldiers if necessary.

Ken McFadyen, Crew members, HMAS Hobart; resupply at sea in demilitarised zone off the coast of Vietnam, ART40675

Peacekeeping operations since 1999

East Timor (Timor–Leste)

With the deployment of Australian troops to East Timor in 1999, the largest overseas commitment since the Vietnam War, the Memorial saw an opportunity to revive the Official War Art Scheme and commissioned artists to record all aspects of Australia’s involvement in the INTERFET peacekeeping operations. Two commissions were realised in 1999, Rick Amor followed by Wendy Sharpe; and a third artist, Jon Cattapan, 2008.

Jon Cattapan, Waiting at H-Pod, Dili, ART93984

Solomon Islands

Australian troops have been deployed in the Solomon Islands since the introduction of RAMSI (Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands) in 2003. In 2009, the Australian War Memorial commissioned eX de Medici to observe the peacekeeping activities of the Australian Defence Force (ADF).

Middle Eastern operations 2002-2011

Peter Churcher was appointed in February 2002 to spend three weeks with the Royal Australian Navy (RAN)in the Persian Gulf. He then flew to Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean with the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and also spent time with the ADF stationed in Afghanistan.

Iraq and Afghanistan

In 2003 Lewis Miller was appointed to depict Australia's involvement in the conflict in Iraq.

The following artists work collaboratively and were appointed as official artists for Afghanistan and Iraq in 2007. They were attached to military bases in Kuwait, Bahrain, Iraq, and Afghanistan to record and interpret the training, logistical and operational activities of the ADF personnel.

Lyndell Brown and Charles Green, History painting: outpost, Helmand province, Afghanistan, ART93319

In October 2009 the Memorial commissioned Shaun Gladwell to tour with the ADF in Afghanistan. His war art forms a complex response to the technology, landscapes and soldiers he experienced in Afghanistan. In particular, it explores the way soldiers are trained to observe and quickly respond to foreign environments.

In October 2011 Ben Quilty became the fourth artist the Memorial has sent to the war in Afghanistan. He was attached to the Australian Defence Force (ADF) observing their activities in Kabul, Kandahar and Tarin Kowt. His task was to record and interpret the experiences of Australian servicemen and women who are part of Operation Slipper.

Northern Australia

In May 2012 Tony Albert (Girramay/Kuku Yalangi) became the Memorial’s first official war artist to be attached to the Australian Army’s Regional Surveillance Unit North West Mobile Force (NORFORCE).  He trained with NORFORCE’s 2012 recruit intake at the unit’s Kangaroo Flats Training Area, South of Darwin.

Albert is the first Indigenous Australian appointed to the role of official war artist and the first commissioned to work on Australian soil since the Second World War. This commission was possible with the support of an anonymous donation and acknowledges the vital role played by Indigenous communities in the defence of Australia.

Tony Albert, Be Deadly - NORFORCE, ART94987

In August 2016 Alick Tipoti (Kala Lagaw Ya) became the Memorial’s second Indigenous official war artist, attached to the Australian Army’s Regional Force Surveillance Unit (RFSU), of the 51st Far North Queensland Regiment (51FNQR). During his time in Far North Queensland, he visited the unit’s Headquarters in Cairns and C Company’s base on Waiben (Thursday Island). As part of his commission, Tipoti returned to visit C Company at their base on several occasions over the course of 2017. Visit Alick Tipoti's website.

Alick Tipoti, Anzac C Company, Australia, AWM2017.1430.1

Middle Eastern operations 2016 onwards

In October 2016, Susan Norrie was deployed to Camp Taji in Iraq, as an official war artist witnessing Australian Defence Force operations to train Iraqi soldiers. She arrived two weeks after the Battle of Mosul started, in which Iraqi and allied forces sought to win back the city of Mosul from Daesh (also known as ISIL/ISIS.) During her deployment Norrie filmed a daily record of life on the base for the Australian, New Zealander and Iraqi personnel. This was used to create her film Spheres of Influence which records contemporary events in the context of the histories of Iraq and the Middle East more broadly.

Still from Spheres of Influence, 2016-19

Susan Norrie, stills from Spheres of Influence, 2016-19, filmed in Camp Taji, Iraq and Paris, France, single channel video, 26:44 minutes, AWM2018.217.1

Still from Spheres of Influence, 2016-19

Susan Norrie, stills from Spheres of Influence, 2016-19, filmed in Camp Taji, Iraq and Paris, France, single channel video, 26:44 minutes, AWM2018.217.1

In November 2017, Megan Cope (Quandamooka) became the Memorial’s first female Aboriginal official war artist. She was sent to Qatar, before she was attached to the Australian Defence Force at the Al Minhad Air Base and the Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates. There she recorded and interpreted subjects concerning Australia’s contribution to the international effort in the Middle East Area of Operations. Cope produced a series of works titled Flight or fight that was primarily inspired by a ten-hour flight she took over the Middle East.

Flight or Fight #1 Old Rivers, Deep Water (Lake Qadisiya & Lake Assad), Megan Cope. AWM2019.58.1

Last updated: