Cure for pain

Accession Number ART96843
Collection type Art
Measurement Sheet: 114 x 415 cm
Object type Work on paper
Physical description watercolour on paper
Maker eX de Medici
Place made Australia: Australian Capital Territory, Canberra
Date made 2010-2011.
Conflict Australian Military Commitments

Item copyright: AWM Licensed copyright


'Cure for pain' is an expression of our common mortality, and the equality in death. Skulls are a traditionally a symbol of death in European art, and here artist eX de Medici has evolved this symbol into a representation of a helmet. As de Medici described, the helmet is ‘an instrument for other purposes that can cloak identity for instance, which was my first use of it, the disguise of identity in aggressive situations’.

The helmets also signify different conflicts and countries in chronological order, demonstrating the evolution of combat helmet design from over a century. These helmets include: Australian colonial forces helmets; a black German spiked helmet from the First World War; a Japanese Imperial Army helmet from the Second World War; a contemporary respirator; and finishing with a cutaway helmet worn by Australians in Afghanistan.

The work features French, Australian, and Japanese carrier pigeons from the First and Second World Wars, as well as symbols for contemporary spies – Australian Gouldian finches with rich purple plumage and Iranian pigeons that were inspired by de Medici’s trips to Iran. In a demonstration of military adaption from the natural world the technological world, there are also two little mechanical birds signifying aerial surveillance – they too are spies.

Flowers are also rich symbols of military conflict. 'Cure for pain' draws its title from the opium poppy, recognisable through its shiny purple and red petals and distinctive seed pods. This flower – the source for morphine – has historically provided pain relief in the battlefield, yet it is a flower that is synonymous with conflict in contemporary Afghanistan, a country renowned for its vast opium crop. Reinforcing the commemorative reading of this work, the Flanders poppies are drawn from those laid at the Australian War Memorial's Hall of Memory.

Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program by Erika Krebs-Woodward

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