Arts / De Medici paints mortality and equality in death

AN important artwork, “Cure for pain”, by Canberra artist eX de Medici, is now on display at the Australian War Memorial.

eX de Medici (b. 1959)/Cure for pain /Watercolour on paper/Drawn in Canberra, 2010–11/Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program by Erika Krebs-Woodward/ART96843/

Donated by Erika Krebs-Woodward through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program, “Cure for pain” has been described as a detailed, multi-layered work that reflects the themes of mortality and equality in death throughout a century of Australian military history.

At more than four metres long the painting is also the largest work produced by de Medici, appointed official war artist to the Solomon Islands in 2009 and one of Australia’s most celebrated contemporary artists.

Director of the Australian War Memorial Dr Brendan Nelson said the donation added to the memorial’s world-class art collection, and that the work was “an important tool in our evolving understanding of the Australian experience of war”.

Dr Nelson added, “eX de Medici has crafted an image that tells a history of the development of military heraldry over a century of Australian involvement in international conflict. To have this intricate piece as part of the national collection enables visitors to create new connections to Australia’s military history.”

The work’s title is drawn from the opium poppy – the source for morphine – which has historically been used to provide pain relief on the battlefield. Its contemporary relevance relates to the conflict in Afghanistan, a country renowned for its opium crop and narcotics production.

Skulls are a traditional symbol of death in European art; de Medici has translated this into helmets worn by troops from the colonial period through to contemporary conflicts.

Interested in how military hardware is adapted, “Cure for pain” also demonstrates the evolution of helmet design, from the spiked German Pickelhaube to modern combat helmets. They provide protection, but de Medici sees how they are also for “the disguise of identity in aggressive situations”.

“Cure for pain” is on display in the Mezzanine Gallery of Anzac Hall as part of the Memorial’s exhibition “The deceiving eye”.

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