ART24473

Image copyright: © Australian War Memorial
Creative Commons License This image is licensed under CC BY-NC

ID number ART24473
Title Trailer party bringing in rubber tree logs, Changi
Collection Art
Object type Painting
Maker Griffin, Murray (Artist)
Place made Singapore: Changi
Date made 1942-1943
Medium oil on hardboard
Measurement Overall: 43 x 52.7 cm

Description

Members of working party hauling a trailer load of firewood. The trailer had been improvised from a truck chassis and pulled by manpower. The strength demanded by this task became beyond the reach of most men whilst POWs, especially for those who had returned from the Burma-Thailand railway. However, collecting firewood was one of the most important requirements, as the prisoners needed the wood for cooking. As the years progressed, the men had to haul the wood for longer distances as they had felled all the trees with in the camp boundary first, and slowly moved to the rubber trees further removed from the camp.
This work highlights Griffin's love of colour and his adroitness in this area. The lush landscape of Malaya and Singapore fascinated Griffin. As it is so alien to the Australian landscape, he created many works whilst a POW that had some vestige of foliage. Griffin noted 'Malaya is beautiful. Rich glowing contrasts of colours, heavy massive foliage, grey twisting tree trunks curving through the air in mellow heat and stabs of brilliant colour to excite the senses'.
Murray Griffin was appointed as an official war artist in October 1941 and reached Singapore in November to document the movements of the Australian 8th Division. He was taken prisoner of the Japanese at the Fall of Singapore in February 1942, along with 15,000 other Australian soldiers, and spent three and a half years as a prisoner of war in Changi prison. During that time he recorded the everyday events which occupied the prisoners time, as well as producing works of events based on survivor testimony which had occurred during fighting and on the Burma-Thailand railway. Griffin improvised art supplies with whatever he could, and several of his canvases are part of the roof of one of the buildings in Changi; they still have the nail holes visible from where he prised it off the roof.