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Sappers and Shrapnel

Sapper Stanley Keith Pearl, 5 Field Company Engineers, AIF, Australia,1893–1986 Alarm clock 1918

Sappers and Shrapnel

This exhibition showcases contemporary art and the art of the trenches

Sappers and Shrapnel

Sappers & Shrapnel- Contemporary Art and the Art of the Trenches is a current exhibition that  is pushing the boundaries of what art is and what we consider conventional materials.

Inspired by the little-known and undervalued art form known as “trench art”, Sappers & Shrapnel includes works from the collection of the Australian War Memorial, including items made by Tasmanian Sapper Stanley K. Pearl. These are showcased alongside the compelling work of contemporary artists including Tony Albert, Olga Cironis, Ben Quilty, Fiona Hall, Mary Katajuku Pan and many others.

Whether intended as trophies of war, souvenirs for those at home, or talismans for the battle ahead, trench art – made from shells, shell cases, shrapnel, badges, buttons and appropriated enemy artillery – is an expression of the human need to make art.

Curator Lisa Slade says ‘Trench art provides evidence of art’s status – not as a luxury or commodity – but as essential for survival. It reminds us of art’s inalienable power. And we need such a reminder right now.”

Tony Albert, Australia, born 1981 Girramay/Kuku Yalandji people, Queensland Universal Soldier 2014

Tony Albert, Australia, born 1981
Girramay/Kuku Yalandji people, Queensland
Universal Soldier

The trench art objects made by Australian Sapper, Stanley K Pearl, provide some of the most illuminating biographies of the First World War and offer a window into the industry and ingenuity of these everyday artisans. Pearl’s oeuvre signals a resilience, resourcefulness and an inventiveness, not unlike the contemporary artists that he is exhibited alongside.

Sappers & Shrapnel: Contemporary Art and the Art of Trenches is showing now at the Art Gallery of South Australia. More information can be found at their website here

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