Australia, special forces (everywhere, current), veg pattern 2007, 2010

Place Asia: Afghanistan
Accession Number ART94370
Collection type Art
Measurement sheet: 57.2 x 76.4 cm
Object type Work on paper
Physical description watercolour and gold leaf on paper
Maker eX de Medici
Place made Australia: Australian Capital Territory, Canberra
Date made 2010
Conflict Period 2000-2009
Afghanistan, 2001-2021
Copyright Item copyright: © Australian War Memorial
Creative Commons License This item is licensed under CC BY-NC

An Australian Special Forces cutaway helmet with a vegetation camouflage pattern. This type of helmet is manufactured by South African company, Global Armour. This watercolour was drawn in Canberra from a helmet worn by a member of the Australian Special Forces who served in Afghanistan between 2008-2009.

eX de Medici has an ongoing interest in contemporary warfare and is renowned for her large scale drawings that show emblems of conflict: weapons, helmets, skulls, and bullets. The skull had been a feature of de Medici's watercolours since the late 1990s, however the proliferation of skulls in popular culture instigated a re-working of this symbol. de Medici evolved the metaphor of the skull into a representation of a helmet. She expanded on this notion in an interview with the Australian War Memorial on 6 May 2010: "The helmet sits at the same point as a skull. It is a skull. It is the exoskeleton of a skull. It's a mask. It's an instrument for other purpose that can cloak identity for instance, which was my first use of it, was the disguise of identity in aggressive situations." In 2010, she commenced a series of watercolours devoted to military helmets, which included this drawing.

Similar to de Medici's moth studies from her artist-in-residency at the CSIRO, this helmet appears like a specimen. It has been drawn with an almost scientific attention to detail, reinforcing de Medici's interest in natural history illustrations. In particular, the black shadows mirror a technique she observed in the drawings of Ferdinand Bauer, the natural history painter aboard Matthew Flinders' 'Investigator' who completed elegantly rendered and scientifically accurate works of Australian flora and fauna. This meticulously drawn helmet reinforces de Medici's observation that the helmet is both a mask, and a metaphor for a skull. Although a modern Australian battle helmet, this watercolour serves as a contemporary vanitas for a symbol of death, violence, and personal insecurity in a global war on terror.

In 2009, eX de Medici was appointed by the Australian War Memorial as an official artist to the Solomon Islands. She completed 23 works on paper as part of this commission, and then an additional three large watercolours. A selection of these works were included in the 2010 exhibition 'Perspectives: Jon Cattapan and eX de Medici'.