War has changed immeasurably during the last century, and whilst some of changes are easily observed (like the advances in technology for example) others are more discreet.
The ways in which war is portrayed through art has undergone subtle yet significant changes; some of which will be heard and seen during the second performance of the Canberra Symphony Orchestra’s Australian Series, which is held in partnership with the National Portrait Gallery.
Moving ahead 100 years, several of the finalists in the National Portrait Gallery’s National Photographic Portrait Prize 2017 show that the artist’s attention has moved from the steady focus on the soldier’s experience to include indirect participants of war who are equally affected by its consequences. For example, Kellie Leczinska’s portrait of young mother and refugee Kuei shows us a striking image of a woman whose life has been profoundly impacted by war. In her artist statement, Leczinska writes
Artists and musicians have long used war as the subject of their creations, but contemporary artistic expressions such as we see in the Portrait Gallery’s National Photographic Portrait Prize 2017 show that the narrative has broadened from the experience of the soldier to include the stories of people who would otherwise remain hidden.
This Australian Series also features a newly commissioned work from composer Alice Humphries. In order to help shape the work, Humphries spent some time looking for themes that link the images on display in the National Photographic Portrait Prize 2017. She describes her piece ‘About Light’ as being inspired by an element which is essential in photography.
Kuei - The Sea of Gazelles - South Sudan to Oz by Kellie Maree Leczinska
This image of a woman who settled in Australia after fleeing civil war in South Sudan and spending eight years in a UN refugee camp happened almost by accident, photographer Kellie Maree Leczinska said.
"It wasn't planned — I actually photographed her for another body of work ... I started to photograph her and asked her a little bit about herself, and this story came out," she said.
"It was just an incredible story of this beautiful, elegant woman who has endured the most terrible situations.
"When we think of UN refugee camps we think it's going to be a place of sanctuary, but it's not like that at all."
Leczinska said she found the image resembled classic portraiture
"In some respects she looks like she's coming out of darkness," she said.
"I thought it had a bit of a Girl With a Pearl Earring look about it."