The Art of War

The Exhibition, A Century of Australian War Art, is presented to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the ANZAC campaign at Gallipoli. I attended the exhibition at the Australian Embassy in Washington DC, which commissioned and developed the show in partnership with the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

“For almost one hundred years, art has been central to the way we understand and commemorate the Australian experience of war. The official art war scheme dates back to December 1916, when the artist Will Dyson volunteered with the Australian Imperial Force and travelled to the Western Front. Dyson’s intent was not to fight but rather to visually record the experiences of Australian soldiers ……Since Will Dyson, more than 70 official war artists have been deployed to major conflicts in which Australia has participated, including both world wars, the Korean and Vietnam wars, and more recently in Iraq and Afghanistan. Official commissions have also been undertaken amid peacekeeping operations in East Timor and the Solomon Islands, and during recruitment programs at the NORFORCE unit in far north Australia.”  ( exhibition catalogue notes, Australian War Memorial, 2015)

Jon Cattapan is a Melbourne based artist whose works deal primarily with political and social representations of the urban environment.

Research his work by the title Night Vision XV. Where was he when he made this painting?

Jon Cattapan , 2009
Jon Cattapan , 2009

Given the title of this work and the colour scheme featured, what form of combat technology is being referenced?

What are being referenced by the red marks?

Post your comments and will feedback ,

regards Dr Mackey at the Smithsonian.

18 thoughts on “The Art of War

  1. Hi Kathy,
    I think that the red marks represent the point of the red-dot guns. All the shooters are aiming at parts of him. I see a human behind all the dots and I think the men that are being aimed at are ANZACS or Australian fighters. There are many targets on the man and he seems to be running away. near him i see white lines, which I think are bullets. Jon cattapan is trying to show us the veiw of the attacket pointing the gun.

    1. Hi Greer,
      Your comments about the human being behind the dots is correct , but try to imagine what clues the human body is is conveying about the location of the person. Does our body send out some kind of scientific signal ? A hint would be what sensation do you feel when your are in a room full of crowed people ?

  2. Hi Dr Mackey,
    The answer for Q1 would be Timor Leste.
    The answer for Q2 would be Night Vision
    The answer for Q3 would be the gun points on the man or a person is aiming their gun and looking through the gun setting their points on the man.

    1. Hi Angeline and Annabelle ,
      Well done on the accuracy of your research.
      Have a talk to Greer about my probing question about the red dots. What is it about the human body that would suggest to the artist that a red dot would be a useful symbol of where the body is in the dark? Its not blood, but something else.

  3. Hello Dr Mackey,
    I believe that the red dots represent laser marks from guns, also there is a man in the background who is being targeted by the other people pointing the guns at him and aiming. Also in the background there is lines of white and I believe that it is the blood of fallen soldiers who have fallen or have been wounded.

    1. Hi Jorja,
      Yes, I agree you can see a man in the background who represents perhaps the enemy as a whole . You have shown a great level of reflection by also discussing the white lines as perhaps faded memories of fallen soldiers. While the red dots could represent laser guns , share your thoughts with the group about what our body does when it is in a tense situation as this can provide you with links to the answer to question 3.

  4. Hi Dr Mackey,
    I think that the picture shows that the person is being targeted by some sort of gun. I love how the picture looks like a Christmas tree with red lights on it. I think the style of combat is technology because of the red light.

    1. Hi Matthew ,
      Yes the colours do remind us of the joy of Christmas , but its quite ironic that the meaning is quite different.
      You are close to the answer regarding Question 3 with the reference to the red lights, but think about the technology of the human body. What happens to our internal systems when we are under pressure – and why would have the artist used red to show this ?

  5. Hi Dr Mackey,

    I think that the picture shows that the red dots near the soldier are red lights that are aiming lights in the war and that the style of combat technoligy is a night vision battle between the two armies.

    1. Hi Lochy,
      You are getting close – what is the technology actually reading to show that there is a body in the dark?

  6. Hi Dr Mackey,
    I love how the Night Vision xv makes you feel like your looking through night vision goggles! I think the red dots on the painting stand for the enemies shooting at the soldier I the middle.

    1. Hi Zara , Yes the painting feel like you are seeing the situation through the googles. Talk to your friends about what our bodies do when we are in a state of fear. How would technology be able to track this?

  7. Hi Dr. Mackey,
    I found a website some information about the artist.
    In 2008, he took up a commission through the Australian war memorial to become Australia’s 63rd official war artist. He painted the night vision xv painting in Timor.

    I think that the red dots in the painting represent when the enemy was aiming their guns at the soldiers in the dark. It was as if they had ‘night vision’

    Thanks!
    from Mattea
    (P.s I did queensland academies last year!)

    1. Hi Mattea … Yes, I remember you from our online classes last year.
      Well done on looking up the website.
      If you were fighting in the dark … what signals would your body be giving that would make you easily “seen by technology” in the dark ?

  8. Hello Dr Mackey,
    My answer to the first question is that he was in Timor Leste when he made the artwork ‘Night Vision XV’.
    My answer to the third question is that the red dots reference someone looking through a gun and aiming it at the man.

    1. HI Lou Lou,
      Your answers to questions I and 2 are correct. You and your friends are all so close with the answer to Question 3. If you were in a jungle at night, fighting a battle, how would your body feel ?

  9. Hi Dr Mackey the answer to the first question is that he was in Timor Leste where he explored Night Vision technology as an aesthetic tool.

    I also think that the red marks are either gun aims or gun shots.

    Thanks for the questions
    Chloe

    1. Hi Chloe ,
      Well done that you have observed that the artist used night vision technology as a aesthetic device. What is the human body actually doing that generates the red dot itself ? It’s a bit like when we look at the BOM website when we know a storm is coming.

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