Great Southern Line Anzac Story
Artist Progress Report
Collected Item relating the Robert Curtis from the Collection of Kate Olsson.
My approach for this project is to seek out and gather relevant stories and symbols to inform conceptual development and the production of artwork. Concepts for artwork have begun to emerge based on this stage of the project.
Attendance at story telling workshops, access to people with connections to railway workers/WW1 veterans and the railways, access to artifacts and memorabilia; and railway station site visits have all contributed to the growth of concepts, identification of appropriate materials and relevant symbolism.
Story Telling Workshops
I have attended three story-telling workshops. These were in Picton, Moss Vale and Goulburn with the researcher and STARTS staff in order to meet people with connections to returning veterans that were employed on the railways. I was able to witness their stories and see artifacts that were brought along.
Each workshop I attended gave me a different perspective. Each workshop helped me identify and think of symbols and materials that might represent stories. It is challenging selecting materials each with its unique language, that best describe or relate to the emerging stories and memorabilia.
There were stories about working life and others that did not relate directly to the railways but were about family life e.g. gardening and social activities.
Developing concepts and Symbolism
Concepts and ideas are developing and I can provide some insight into concepts to inform the finished artworks.
The researcher has uncovered objects and memorabilia that have enabled insight into life on the railways within the period. While these don’t necessarily relate directly to particular veterans, they do tell stories of the times. The researcher has shared some information as it came to light such as farewell and welcome home gifts. These enabled me to connect with the times and working environment and also helped me to form ideas about symbols and stories.
I have learned so far that returning veterans were provided with a solid welcome home, often with jobs reserved for them to go to. Despite this they carried the emotional scars of their wartime experiences making them fragile and vulnerable. A concept that has emerged relates to the railway lanterns used by railway guards and others. The flickering (faint) light is a metaphor for the fragility of veterans.
“Fight for Light” is a phrase that jumped into my head – brave solders go to war to protect the vulnerable but when they return, they themselves are the vulnerable, like a faint flickering light in a railway worker’s lantern.
The railway infrastructure was ubiquitous to the railway network carrying enlisted men to the war and veterans home from the war as well as being the social and economic lifeblood of community along the great southern line. I have considered using old railway sleepers as a possible material. They could be linked to a time when a returning veteran laid them. They supported the trains carrying many of our brave young men to war and back.
The beginning of this project started with one black and white photograph of 5 young men from Goulburn Railway who enlisted in WW1. At the time there was only 1 name confirmed of one of the men.
The stories have been proving difficult to unearth due to the lack of information in living memory and also because returning soldiers often would not talk about their war experiences or much else. What is extraordinary is that now, we have the names of each of the five men have got memorabilia and stories of three of the five men and now know where the photographs were taken. A great step forward!
The artwork is progressing through the conceptual stage of development. A solid framework is in place and is producing a sound grounding for the artworks.
As stories and objects ‘surface’ which have significant links to returned veterans and their families, I consider them as very precious. It is so difficult to access such stories and even those that go with the memorabilia. We need to take this opportunity to record the flickering light while it still shines. This project is vital to the survival of the true stories of our returning WW1 veterans.