I am sitting out in front of the hut writing in the moonlight. I went over to the Nursery camp & got your two letters of the 7th & 10th. Your letters mean so much to me darl, not the writing itself but all the goodness of heart that prompts you to write. I would have liked to be as regular with my letters to you but at present it is impossible. I don’t think there is a day passes that I don’t think of you & oh I am just longing to have my arms around you & forget all the cares & worries of this life. I have been very optimistic about everything up till now but I am gradually being converted into not a pessimist but rather a fatalist. The fill keeps breaking & the water just seems to keep out of our grasp. The chap I had with me has gone back to Swan Hill so I am on my own. You will be wondering if I had a quarrel. No. he went of his own accord & I am very pleased as I have given up batching & am now boarding with Mrs Jones. I am up to my eyes in work & I felt too tired to bother cooking anyway it is impossible here in the Summer. It has been frightfully hot for over a week now & the mosquitoes are bad at night. I have hundreds of bites while I have been writing. I have about two days before I finish pegging out. The head ditch I made is all filled again. The wind blows clouds of sand from off the block & consequently all holes & ditches get filled in. It was too blessed hot to work today. I generally cut pegs at night. I have used about 5000 & I still need about 2000. Did I forget to mention about your cakes darl. What an ungrateful fool you will think I am; they were very nice darl. I won’t tell a lie & say they come up to Lil’s but with a few lessons (from me) you will be an A1 cook in fact I would like you to commence your job of cook on this ranch as soon as you like. I want to write a lot more. Tonight I seem to feel that you are near me & that you are thinking of me but the blessed mosquitoes are eating me alive so goodnight my beloved. Give my love to your mother & kindest regards to your dad & a heart full of love from Yours ever, Oz.
(This is an undated letter from Oz to Myrtle that we found in the suitcase - most likely written toward the end of 1921)
We've had some wonderful coverage of the post war project and POST-WAR Thousand Mile Stare exhibition lately. On Anzac Day The Canberra Times ran a feature written by ANCA's critic-in-residence' Jess Oliver New Battleground for Returned Soldiers after WWI. If you're in Canberra and can make it along to the exhibition it runs until 10 May 2015 at ANCA Gallery - 1 Rosevear Avenue, Dickson ACT. Open Wed-Sun 12-5pm. To see images from the opening visit Life in Canberra, Andrew Sikorski took some wonderful snaps of the event. I sat at ANCA this weekend and met some lovely people coming through, among them I spoke with a woman who had grown up in Red Cliffs, and met the mother of a veteran who had served in Iraq and struggled with depression. It's been really wonderful to meet people who engage with the work in different ways and it's especially rewarding to discuss the research and process of making with them and listen to their perspectives on the content.
With kind permission from CJ Bowerbird I'm delighted to share with you his poem Keeping Our Heads Down which he performed so movingly at the opening of POST-WAR: Thousand Mile Stare just a few nights ago.
Keeping Our Heads Down by CJ Bowerbird
The sun peeks over the parapet. Yellow-green shreds of fog crease heavy the
pigeon chest of the land. A muted cough from a bird disturbed by the metal
shufflings of men with cold feet rooting into the soil.
You never quite shake off all the dirt. We
carry it home, entrenched in our
palms, under our nails, sanding our hair. With our
hands moulded to rifle stocks or
spades, we have no choice but to
When I landed in this plot, I
folded to a sprinter’s crouch,
sieved the soil through the
ploughshare-bayonets of my hand,
sifting time in the earth,
weighing the interim between
signing up and passing on.
We fought for this land, hand-to-
hand with mallee and barbs of scrub,
grappling with stumps, claiming it row by
row with little advance, keeping our
heads down, dodging the Turks of summer.
We cajoled the ground with songs and
curses, making the best we could,
scraping for survival. We will never be
Now survey the gains: channels
pulse hesitantly from the heart,
cut through by barrel-straight
borders, arbitrary lines dividing the
vital from dying.
We spend our days waiting for
water to course across this skin, to
curse the moment it arrives
The rains break at the wrong times: when I’m
out in the open or the trench isn’t
clear or over the dinner table. The
clouds split last night and none of us slept.
You never quite cough up all the
grime, the sharp intake of morning
breath. Digging stirs up the dust on
dry days, the golden clouds, the
dirt we carry home in our lungs.
You don’t perceive the weakness
beneath the crust until you dig,
expose the hidden flaws, the layered
grit, a permanent incapacity to
There is the taste of metal in the
soil, the sediments of blood and
bone, the noble rust on the fruit and
This land hopes the hope and
We ignore the common report of a rifle
rolling over the blocks, getting rid of
vermin like rabbits or foxes or
memories: an honourable discharge, the
last post of the land letting go.
The suns smoothes a blanket across
remembering ground and turns the
wick down low. My skin carries
warmth, my back tight with industry.
You never quite shake off all the dirt. We
sleep with it. We do what we can.
We have no choice but to
We had a fantastic exhibition opening on 22 April 2015 at ANCA Gallery in Canberra. The first showing of works from this project, the turnout was brilliant and CJ Bowerbird's performance was incredibly moving. Nigel Featherstone gave a touching speech and grateful also to Nigel Lendon, Chair of the ANCA Board who gave a lovely introduction. Thanks to City News for catching some pics for their social pages. The exhibition runs until 10 May 2015 at ANCA Gallery, 1 Rosevear Ave, Dickson ACT. Open Wednesday - Sunday 12-5pm.
It's officially one week to the opening night of Post-War: Thousand Mile Stare. I've been working hard in my studio and it's coming together. I'm thrilled to say that Pam and Phil Shugg are coming across for the opening. The wonderful writer Nigel Featherstone is opening the show and CJ Bowerbird is performing. So if you can make it please do come along to the opening:
ANCA Gallery, 1 Rosevear Pl. Dickson ACT
Opening 6pm Wednesday 22 April 2015.
I have all the excitement and nerves you'd expect - will be glad when the work is all up and I can see clearly where things are at.
This exhibition runs until 10 May 2015 so if you can't make the opening there is still time to catch the show.
Image: studio shot at WIP stage from the piece 'A Thousand Miles', Ink and acrylic drawing on Kozo.
Katy Mutton is a Canberra based, Australian Visual Artist whose practice is informed by an ongoing concern around trauma and warfare and how these relate to our cultural identity and history. For more information on her artwork visit www.katymutton.com