Mildura Weekly : Friday October 7 Vol 10 No 48
NEWS 17 FRIDAY, OCTOBER 7, 2016 MILDURAWEEKLY.COM.AU By VINNIE RODI A WHIRLWIND and emotional three-month journey has come to a head for Wentworth artist Clair Bates, after the 64-year-old was chosen as one of 25 Australian and Papua New Guinea-based artists to have their work featured in a special Australian War Memorial exhibition. ‘For Country, For Nation’ is on show for the next 12 months, and has been created to commemorate 100 years of the ANZAC spirit, while also paying tribute to Aboriginal people who have served in that time. Clair’s artwork, a sculpture which depicts three shields representing the Australian Air Force, Army and Navy, also acknowledges In- digenous people close to her who have served their country, and was chosen as the cen- trepiece of the exhibition. Clair, who has been involved in the Aus- tralian art scene for more than 30 years, said it was an honour to be involved in the project. “It’s a theme that is close to me,” she said. “I’m 64, and have grown up with an uncle who would march every year in Wil- cannia. “He would always march behind the non-Indigenous sol- diers, because he wasn’t allowed to march with them. Regardless, he proudly got dressed up every year and marched, and that always stuck in my mind. “Growing up with that, and then to have this honour bestowed on me is just incredible. It’s also nice to be able to give something back, especially something that honours Aboriginal men and women who fought in war.” Clair said the opportunity to feature her work in For Country, For Nation had come out of the blue. “I got a call from a lady who was work- ing on the exhibition, and she said the idea was based around acknowledging Indigenous people who had fought in war,” she said. “Myself and another lady, Glenda Nichols from Swan Hill, were asked to work on a weav- ing project for the exhibition, and we were the only Australians in that category to be invited. “That in itself was an honour, as there were so many people that could have been chosen. “Within the week we were both in Can- berra, and toured the War Memorial at the end of May. “The people behind the exhibition then explained why it was happening, and that while it was about celebrating 100 years of the ANZACS, it would also acknowledge Indig- enous people who had served.” While bound by strict confidentiality to not display the sculpture prior to the exhibi- tion’s recent launch in Canberra, Clair said she had been permitted to show the artwork privately for a select audience. “I held a viewing at my shop in Wentworth (the Aboriginal Art Gallery), and invited a num- ber of Aboriginal war widows from Mildura along,” she said. “They were so impressed with it, and were really happy to hear about the theme.” Clair said the idea for the sculpture had come to her in a dream. “I sketched it out, and then fiddled around with it for a while, before getting in contact with Josh Kerr, who is the director of JAK Metal Industries and Powder Coating in Mildura,” she said. “Josh is a fantastic metal worker, and I was able to work closely with him to get what I wanted. It took a good three months to put together, and it’s been an honour and an in- credibly emotional journey. “I’m just really happy for people to finally see it.” Originally from Wilcannia, located around 200km from Broken Hill in New South Wales, Clair has called Sunraysia home “on and off” since the 1950s. “I’ve been living in Wentworth perma- nently for the past five years, while working for Sunraysia Community Health Services in Mildura,” she said. “In my later years I was drawn back to the Darling River, especially Wentworth and Mildura where I have a strong family connection.” Clair has been exhibiting and selling her work for the better part of 30 years, with most of her work sold overseas. She said creating art had always been part of her life. “Growing up in the bush I think you devel- op a love for creating your own fun, and that was mainly because we didn’t have access to the technology of today,” Clair said. “We had to make our own fun and games, and for me that was to create things, as it was something that came automatically.” Clair also credits her father for her creative streak. “Dad was very creative, especially when it came to creating traditional artefacts,” she said. “As a young girl I still remember seeing him make a variety of things and sell them to tourists who would come through the town.” Clair said it was anticipated that the For Country, For Nation exhibition would remain on show at the Australian War Memorial for the next 12 months, before hopefully touring the country. “Funding is going to be the key,” she said. “Hopefully they find some funding so it can be toured around, because there are some fan- tastic pieces of artwork on show.” Clair lends her talents to War Memorial exhibition “It’s also nice to be able to give something back, especially something that honours Aboriginal men and women who fought in war.” epa.vic.gov.au/buildingwaste 1300 EPA VIC (1300 372 842) DUMPING? 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