“I dedicate it to mothers who serve”: the portrait of a nursing soldier wins the Defense Art Prize

A portrait depicting the conflict between being a mother and a member of the military has won a prestigious art award, organized by the Australian War Memorial.

Retired major Anneke Jamieson won the 2022 Napier Waller Art Prize for her portrait titled The Promotion.

The Napier Waller Art Prize is open to all current and former service members of the Australian Defense Force and aims to encourage artistic excellence, promote the transformative power of creativity and showcase the experiences and talent of military personnel.

This year’s winning artwork of a military woman in uniform nursing her child is now set to join the National War Memorial’s collection.

In her artist statement, Ms Jamieson said The Promotion was an expression of her conflict between being a mother and serving in the military.

“The mother in me could never make peace with the officer I wanted to be,” she said.

“I’ve always admired the leaders I’ve served with – they give so much of themselves for their people. When our second and third children arrived, it was obvious that I couldn’t be both the officer I wanted to be and the mother I needed to be.”

“I dedicate it to mothers who serve; to their sacrifices and their conflicted hearts

Ms Jamieson said the servicewoman in the portrait was not meant to be her, but the work was inspired by her own experiences and those of others around her.

She dedicated the portrait to all service members who are also mothers, and their families.

Charlie by artist Andrew Littlejohn also spoke of the sacrifices made by the families and children of Defense personnel.(Provided: Australian War Memorial)

“I had incredible support from my husband and the military, but that didn’t change my ability to give of myself. I also didn’t see friends dealing with conflict with grace and determination. My choice was difficult but obvious and ultimately empowering,” she says.

“I dedicate it to mothers who serve, to their sacrifices and to their conflicted hearts and to the families who support them.”

“If you’re willing to look at it from a different angle, you can only be better off”

Glen Braithwaite’s submission, titled Falling Flying Driving Drowning, is ink and bleach painted on a canvas made from recycled Commando comic books and a shredded slouch hat, and was one of 14 most popular works this year.

An ink and bleach painting of two people falling.
‘Flying fall diving noyding’ by Glen Braithwaite, who says the piece is about learning to overcome unconscious bias.(Provided: Australian War Memorial)

He said the piece, which is mounted on a 360-degree rotating stand that allows any part of the painting to be on top, was an exploration of him “unlearning the unconscious biases” surrounding stress disorder trauma (PTSD) and military service.

“I have unconscious biases – now conscious biases – around PTSD and trauma because I’ve been in surgery, I’ve seen things, and my take on those things I’ve seen was” okay, yes, it was terrible, “but I didn’t take any trauma from it, and yet a person standing next to me has trauma,” he said.

“Their point of view, their story, what they grew up with, the cumulative effects of their upbringing, are all things that contribute to how they see the world.”

A man in a suit spins and rotating paint.
Artist Glen Braithwaite with his artwork Flying Falling Diving Drowning, which is mounted on a 360 degree rotating stand.(ABC News: Chantelle Al-Khouri)

Mr Braithwaite said shredding and incorporating both his first slouch hat and the Commando comics he read as a child represented his life experiences as the basis on which he saw the world.

“I suddenly realized that I had to incorporate my story into the canvas. I am who I am because of how I grew up and my experiences, and so it ended up being shredded and incorporated,” a- he declared.

He said he hopes anyone who has seen Falling Flying Diving Drowning can view it as an invitation to consider other perspectives and begin to examine any unconscious biases they may have.

“Anyway, whatever the subject, looking at something from a different point of view will give you a better understanding, or at least an appreciation or some empathy for what you’re looking at,” said he declared.

“If you’re willing to look at it from a different angle, you can only be better off.”

This year’s shortlisted submissions ‘of an extremely high standard’

An acrylic painting of a blood splatter between two feet.
‘Blood in my shadow’ by Jon Oliver, which was highly praised at this year’s Napier Waller Art Prize.(Provided: Australian War Memorial)

The winning piece was selected from a shortlist of 14 highly recommended entries, all of which will be featured in an exhibition in Parliament until November 20.

The exhibition can also be viewed online, with 28 shortlisted submissions eligible for the People’s Choice Award.

Themes explored by the shortlisted works include mental health and trauma, the impact of relocation on the children and families of military personnel, and current events surrounding the Australian military.

The Australian War Memorial’s artistic manager, Laura Webster, said the shortlisted pieces were of high quality and represented a variety of artistic mediums.

“This year’s shortlisted works are of an extremely high standard,” she said.

“The winning work is very important because it tells the story of women and mothers in the Australian Defense Force.”

The award is sponsored by The Hospital Research Foundation Group, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and Thales Australia, and is supported by the University of Canberra

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