Presentation of 60th Anniversary of the Korean War painting to Minister of Veterans Affairs, Hon Michael Woodhouse by artist Liam Barr.
27 June 2014
Hon Michael Woodhouse, Minister of Veterans’ Affairs, has been presented with an oil painting by Wellington-based artist, Liam Barr, on behalf of the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF).
Both Mr Woodhouse and Mr Barr travelled to Korea in July last year with a NZDF contingent and New Zealand veterans of the Korean War last July to attend the 60th anniversary of the Korean War Armistice.
“This painting will stand as a lasting testament to the New Zealand contribution to the Korean War, and recognise those who fought and died there in service to their country,” says Mr Woodhouse.
Mr Barr says the painting, titled The Weight of Silence, reflects his experience of the commemorations and the conversations he had with the veterans.
“Initially, I thought the painting would be more historical in tone – images of uniforms, good keen blokes, the battle-weary,” said Mr Barr.
“But as I listened to the veterans’ stories and observed their reactions to the commemorations, I felt the painting needed to reflect the emotion on returning to Korea sixty years after they had fought there.”
The oil on linen painting is based on a photo Mr Barr took of veteran Mr George Flintoft who happened to be the first veteran Mr Barr met before the contingent departed for Korea. Mr Flintoft stands in formal attire, cane in hand, wearing his military medals and South Korea’s national flower ‘The Rose of Sharon’ (Hibiscus Syriacus) pinned to his right lapel. He stands before a koru-engraved portion of the New Zealand Memorial at the United Nations Memorial Cemetery in Busan.
Poppies float around Mr Flintoft as a symbol of the fallen.
Mr Barr’s commission follows in the tradition of New Zealand war artists. The system of appointing official war artists by the Government of New Zealand dates to the latter stages of the First World War. The success of that experiment led to a similar programme of appointing official war artists during the Second World War.
In the post-war era official artists have been engaged from time to time to record overseas deployments, ceremonial occasions or other events deemed to be of particular contemporary importance. Since 2012 there have also been a series of official NZDF artists engaged to record events and personalities of significance to all three of the Services: Navy, Army and Air Force.
Supplementing these officially commissioned artworks have been artworks produced by Service personnel themselves. Held in museums and galleries throughout New Zealand, but also forming a major part of the National War Art Collection held by Archives New Zealand, these unofficial works greatly enrich our cultural understanding of conflict and military service.
Liam Barr (b.1966) emigrated in from Scotland with his family (1974) and grew up in Banks Peninsula before travelling and ultimately settling in Fremantle where he trained and worked as graphic designer. After the success of his first solo show (2003) Liam's aspiration to further develop his art practice, led him home to NZ (2004) where he lives in Wellington's Island Bay.
Mr Barr has a Diploma (dist.) Perth Metropolitan College of Art & Design.