Alex Seton, Artist Address, For Every Drop Shed in Anguish Dedication Ceremony

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Thankyou Robyn and hello everyone. 

Thankyou for having me here today and letting me share a few words about the sculpture commission

It has been a long journey to get here.

I first wanted to thank you for the trust you’ve all placed in me with this - the trust to create something that acknowledges so many different experiences of service and its aftermath.

The brief was at first incredibly daunting, hearing of the many stories of loved ones with injuries and wounds, of those with ongoing physical and mental trauma, of those that still struggle and are slowly healing, and for their many carers, family and loved ones .

There are far too many who have lost a loved one to suicide

It was deeply intimidating, like it was almost far too much for one artwork to hold. That service comes with an enormous cost. A cost that hadn’t been acknowledged enough. And then what struck me was the blood sweat and tears present in each and every one of these stories.

And from that - I started to thinking of the droplet form. Every droplet has a unique shape, defined by its delicate surface tension as if about to burst. Capturing these forms in the durable material of marble meant that they could have an inner strength and resilience that revealed itself when touched. And that could provide at least a hope and a promise of healing.

And so For Every Drop Shed in Anguish came into being. Not a heroic singular monument, but a grouping, a family of droplets spread on the grass, a place to be walked amongst . The Queensland Pearl Marble was chosen from Chillagoe, on the traditional lands of the Wakaman peoples. I have used it before, in my work As of Today.. inside the memorial. It has unique warm tones with striking bands of blood red-iron, like wounds across the large crystals.

When I first travelled to meet with the Cairns Marble quarry family, they were surprised to hear I wasn’t interested in the commercial grade white pearl, but the rejected warm pearl with its many scars and imperfections. They told me of the unique conditions of the land that slow cools over millions of years to form the large crystals that makes this material so special.

To me it is one on the most interesting and beautiful of stones- there is nothing quite like it anywhere on earth.

There are so many people to thank in the creation of this artwork. First I would like to thank the many staff of the war memorial, but in particular Dr Anthea Gunn. As project lead she has steered the many contributors and stakeholders with understanding and care- and kept the project on track through Queensland monsoonal weather and a global pandemic. This project would never have happened without Anthea’s patience and level advice to me every step of the way.

A big thanks to War Memorial Director Matt Anderson, and former Director Dr Brendan Nelson. To head of art Laura Webster and curator Elise Routledge for their care and vigilance.

To Carolyn and Andrew Spralja of Cairns Marble in their guidance in selection of the stone.

To my team Mitchell Ferrie, Gaspare Moscone, Alexandra Neville and  Emma O’Neill who tirelessly polished stone and pdfs with me.

To Simon Bethune of No.175 design for the beautiful furniture so important in making this a place of contemplation. 

An enormous thanks to Mitch Alcorn and the team at Gorilla Constructions for their unflagging efforts in milling and engineering of the stones. Theirs was the lion’s share in the production of this work.

To Heritage Stone NSW and Vagabond Cranes for the cutting and handling of the blocks. To Joanna Strumpf of Sullivan+Strumpf gallery for all her guidance. And to Mum and Dad.

And a special thank you to George Fredrickson, who drove our first stones down from Queensland, and as an Army veteran, upon hearing what these stones were for, insisted upon driving all the marble down himself. Though at the time I never told him so, long conversations with George gave me confidence the project was heading in the right direction. Thankyou for that George

For all the families and veterans I had the honour of working with on this, thank you. Thank you to the Bird family, who first approached me with their story and to advocate for the many families who’ve lost loved ones because of their service. To Pennie Looker and Ben Farinazzo and the many veterans who have shared their experiences openly and honestly with us.

To everyone on the committee working with the Memorial on this project, I thank each and every one of you for your guidance. I think we have made something truly  special together. 

This artwork is just one step in your stories being heard. 

It is only the frame for meaningful conversations about the mental and physical health of our veterans, followed with genuine action.

This artwork is a constant reminder that in this, we can do better. 

This is not another monument to war, but an important and overdue recognition of the true cost of service.

Thank you 

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