Ivor Hele, Central Square, Tobruk, 1941, Reference number: ART22865 Ivor Hele, Central Square, Tobruk, 1941.

On 13 June 2012, we celebrate 100 years since the birth of the artist Ivor Hele. During the Second World War, Hele’s artistic talents quickly earned him an official war artist commission, for which he was hand-picked by General Sir Thomas Blamey. Hele knew firsthand the daily struggles of war. And he drew on this experience to record the experiences of Australian soldiers in the deserts of the Middle East and the jungle wilderness of New Guinea, and then later in the Korean War.

After his appointment in 1941, Hele travelled with the Australian troops to Libya, where the dryness of the desert dominated his paintings. Using a limited palette, he created a dusty filmic quality which captured the glazed tiredness evident in the soldiers’ eyes. In his depictions of the jungles of New Guinea, we can feel the intensity of the heat and the dank sweaty humidity. In the midst of conflict, he made drawings of particular actions, which he later used to underpin large-scale paintings and portraits.

Hele painted not only high-ranking officers but also ordinary soldiers. It is the diversity of his work, both in composition and subject matter, that confirms Hele’s reputation as an extraordinary artist. This display of a small selection of his works provides all Australians with an opportunity to remember his lasting artistic legacy.

This exhibition will be on display in the Orientation Gallery from 31 May 2012.

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