Memorials: then and now
Commemorative monuments are a specialised form of sculptural practice. From
the ubiquitous “small town memorial” to the large-scale monuments
of national significance, sculptors have been called upon to design works
that might provide appropriate reminders of the past.
The monuments sculptors create attempt to represent the intangible aspects
of service, suffering and death in physical objects. The symbolism of military
monuments may be allegorical (describing one subject under the guise of another,
usually drawing on myth, legend and tradition), narrative, or purely abstract;
in its essence, however, a memorial is not about its shape or form, but rather
its purpose as a reminder of something in another time or place. As such,
the chosen image or symbol reflects the artistic means of expression of the
period. Increasingly, acknowledging the complex subject of memory and meaning
has become part of the artist’s challenge.
Memorial to Lieutenant Colonel John Treloar
It was Leslie Bowles’s idea to create a memorial to honour Colonel John Treloar, who had been a great supporter of his work and who had enticed him to return from England to do sculpture for the Memorial. Treloar had defended Bowles’s proposed sculpture for the Hall of Memory; however this, his major work, entitled The four freedoms, was ultimately rejected.
Bringing up the guns
In 1912, after exhibiting with the Yarra Sculptors’ Society and the Victorian Artists’ Society, May Butler-George left Australia for England, supporting herself there by painting portrait miniatures on ivory. She worked as a member of the Voluntary Aid Detachment during the war, and while convalescing from scarlet fever began modelling reliefs in plasticine.
After returning to Australia in 1920, she held a large exhibition of mainly war-related miniatures, sketches, and coloured reliefs at the Athenaeum Hall, Melbourne. Her most significant commission was for the relief panels for the Second Division AIF memorial at Mont St Quentin, France. Although the monument was destroyed by the Germans in the Second World War, the plaster casts remained in Australia and were subsequently presented to the Memorial and re-cast for inclusion in its Sculpture Garden.
Reginald Clarence Scanes, Number 2975, 53rd Battalion, AIF
Signs of life
Ian Howard travelled for six months documenting monuments across Europe before making a series of black works about the idea of the industrial military complex and its effect on society. Using the familiar conventions of the monument and the victory arch, he has simplified and distorted forms to focus on the essence of a complex concept: our relationship to military actions both past and present. The scale is distorted to reflect the subjective views of the varying degrees of gain and loss and personal hurt to which the memorial refers.
Each person that experiences the monument brings their own histories and experiences to bear and the work itself should be able to draw out and support each of these sometimes competing and conflicting feelings.
Just as memories are often indistinct and impossible to quantify, this monument represents a momentous event but is devoid of detail. In contrast, the tourists are distinct individuals, who must come to terms with overwhelming military events; they are a reminder of the reality of those to be commemorated.
Carpet snake gargoyle
Frogmouth owl gargoyle
Frilled neck lizard gargoyle