Battle Scars: Julie Hutchings
This moving exhibition explores Julie’s war time heritage in the most personal and poetic way, journeying to France and Belgium to research the battle history of her two Indigenous great uncles.
It is with great pleasure that the Grafton Regional Gallery presents Battle Scars by Clarence Valley artist Julie Hutchings. This moving exhibition explores Julie’s war time heritage in the most personal and poetic way. In 2017 Julie was awarded the Yulgilbar Travelling Fellowship. She journeyed to France and Belgium where she toured cemeteries, museums, memorials and the battlefields of World War One, in order to research the battle history of her two Indigenous great uncles.
Her journey on this project was both personal and political – it traced the footsteps of her Indigenous uncles who both fought and died on foreign soil. Hutchings created a series of paintings and drawings that responded to the loss of life, the plight of returning Aboriginal soldiers and the subsequent absences of respect and recognition from the Government of the day.
In 2017 I was granted the Yulgilbar Travelling Fellowship through the Grafton Regional Gallery. This opportunity enabled me to travel to France & Belgium to the battlefields of the Western Front of WW1. What started as a personal and professional journey soon developed into a venture that extended beyond anything I could have imagined.
My two Great Uncles Charles Alfred Gage & his brother Christopher Henry Gage were two of approximately 1,000 Indigenous men to serve in WW1. In 1916 Charles was the first Indigenous soldier to die in battle on the western front. His name can be found engraved on the memorial wall at Villers- Bretonneux. Christopher Henry Gage died the following year in the battle of Polygon Wood and is buried at New Irish farm cemetery, outside Ypres in Belgium.
During my journey I visited many significant sights of WW1 including the Menin Gate in Ypres, which every soldier passed through on their way to battle. Memorials, museums & cemeteries provided a rich source of information which inspired and informed the direction of my exhibition.
This Journey was both cathartic and challenging on many levels, and ultimately informed my painting & drawing process for the works in this exhibition. The plight of WW1 indigenous soldiers impacted me greatly; the fact that they were completely unrecognised as Australian citizens and often had to prove that European or British heritage was in their lineage before they could enlist to fight for their nation. For those who returned home most were not awarded the same entitlements as their non indigenous equals and all of this sat heavily with me.
The many sad stories I heard during my travels such as the unknown soldiers buried in graves with headstones marked “Known only to God” and the Telegram man who was once a friend to many then was shunned after having delivered bad news to families, emotionally informed the paintings and drawings in this exhibition.
I hope you enjoy this exhibition and the emotions behind it. Julie Hutchings, 2019
Image credit: Julie Hutchings On Country 2019, 100x120cm, oil on canvas, Courtesy of the artist