Journeys in my head: 18th state

Accession Number ART45102
Collection type Art
Measurement sheet: 56.7 x 38 cm; image: 34 x 30 cm
Object type Print
Physical description etching, aquatint on paper; state 18 of 20
Maker Lyons, Trevor
Place made Australia: Queensland, Brisbane
Date made 1987
Conflict Vietnam, 1962-1975

Item copyright: AWM Licensed copyright


This work is part of a series titled 'Journeys in my head' which reflects the artist’s experiences of the Vietnam War. Born in Brisbane in 1945, Lyons volunteered for National Service in 1965 and served in the Vietnam War as a second lieutenant with the 2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment. His war service ended when he was wounded by a Claymore land mine. He required major reconstructive surgery for facial wounds.

The series ‘Journeys in my head’ starts with Lyons’ self-portrait depicting his scarred face and through 22 prints he flays his skin to reveal the damage to mind and body alike. Lyons used etching processes to create a visceral impact through the tones and marks of the printed surface. He repeatedly reworked the image on the metal etching plate, printing each of the 22 states of the process.

Understanding the process required to make this artwork deepens our understanding of how Lyons was prepared to confront and reveal his traumatic experiences. An etching is made with a metal plate covered in an acid-resistant coating. The artist incises or scratches the coating so that when the plate is submerged in acid, the exposed parts are eaten away. The coating is then removed, and the ‘etched’ parts of the plate are used for printing. Here, Lyons printed a state and then returned to the plate – his own self portrait – and used acid washes and other techniques to create increasingly dense, almost violent, images that represent his experience post-service.