Ian Lade (left) and George Gnezdillff. WW2 veterans see the photomontage they are featured in at the Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery exhibition opening. August 2018
Ian Lade (left) and George Gnezdillff. WW2 veterans see the photomontage they are featured in at the Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery exhibition opening. August 2018 Bev Lacey

Legends of Proserpine: Art, history and reality

PROSERPINE'S own World War Two veteran George Gnezdiloff and Vietnam veteran Ian Lade have been immortalised in a piece of art on display at the Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery thanks to a local photographer.

The two former soldiers were photographed as part of an art project known as Land and Memory by University of Southern Queensland student and Brisk Bay resident Anne Smith. Mrs Smith was asked, as one of six contemporary artists, to draw inspiration from the iconic photographs taken by esteemed Australian war photographer Frank Hurley in France, Belgium and the Middle East during WWI as part of an exhibition in Toowomba titled Landscape and Memory.

When researching the Whitsundays' relationship with armed forces, Mrs Smith came across Mr Gnezdiloff and Mr Lade at the Proserpine Museum.

"Anne explained her idea to me, I asked George to be in it and then we went and took many shots," Mr Lade said.

"My grandson was in the photo and he's nursing a replica of (World War One sniper) Billy Sing's medals. My dog was there too."

Mrs Smith said much of the image journey was influenced through the stories, photographs, books and medals the veterans shared as well as learning about Proserpine's Billy Sing, the WWI Gallipoli sniper at the museum.

 

Local photographer Anne Smith
Local photographer Anne Smith

Mrs Smith's research also revealed Billy Sing and Frank Hurley were in the same location at the same time during the war.

The Frank Hurley image she used to create her work Lest We Forget was taken in the Belgian village of Vlamertinghe where many hospitals and dressing stations were located during the war.

"This was when Frank Hurley made his way to where the Australians were fighting, and recorded some of the most iconic images of the First World War," Mrs Smith said.

"Billy Sing not only lived much of his life in Proserpine, where George and Ian live, but also at the same place and time as Frank Hurley when he took the image I had chosen to use. I was overwhelmed with all connections I had discovered during this image-making project."

 

Proserpine's George Gnezdiloff, 96, in front of his second world war RAAF uniform jacket he donated to the museum.
Proserpine's George Gnezdiloff, 96, in front of his second world war RAAF uniform jacket he donated to the museum. Jessica Lamb

Mr Gnezdillff, at the tender aged of 96, made a road trip with Mr Lade and his wife Jan to the opening of the exhibition which was held in Toowoomba on Sunday.

Their story captured the hearts of media all over Australia, putting not just her work but also Proserpine on the national radar, Mrs Smith said.

"Unfortunately I couldn't attend but the project was about them, their connection and the shared story of veterans.

"I was thrilled that they both had the opportunity to go down and share their story by speaking at the opening."

 

Vice President of the Proserpine RSl sub branch Ian Lade and President of the Proserpine Historical Society Don Kurowski
Vice President of the Proserpine RSl sub branch Ian Lade and President of the Proserpine Historical Society Don Kurowski Jessica Lamb

Mr Lade said it was quite overwhelming to see the large photograph, which features photos by Australian war photograph Frank Hurley superimposed on to the image.

"The Australian flag in the photo, that's my flag flying from my front yard," he said.

"I said we can't take a photo like this without the Australian flag in it."

Mr Gnezdillff, who has a passion for photography himself, said he thoroughly enjoyed coming down to see the photograph, which was printed on metallic paper.

 

Ian Lade with his research books and wooden memorabilia he has hand-made since Vietnam
Ian Lade with his research books and wooden memorabilia he has hand-made since Vietnam Jessica Lamb

As another exciting development in the artwork's saga, the Lest we Forget image has been used in the Education Kit developed for the exhibition to fit into the changing Australian national school curriculum as it finishes it's roll out this year.

Art Education Australia, the national peak body for art education, president Margaret Baguley said basically this means, any school anywhere around Australia at any time can have access to the exhibition even if they can't physically access the location themselves.

"It's designed to be accessible for teachers of any age to download from our site and teach and learn about Australian art and history."

Mrs Smith's picture also features on the front of the exhibition catalogue.

The Landscape and Memory: Frank Hurley and a nation imagined exhibition is on at the Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery until September 2.


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