Kiwi artists exhibit at Italian battle site
28 Apr 2010
A major art exhibition of works by 41 Kiwi artists is to be held in Italy to commemorate New Zealand’s involvement - 66 years ago - in the WWII Battle of Monte Cassino.
The exhibition, themed on a message of peace and due to open on 15 May, will be the biggest New Zealand art event ever held in Italy.
Most of the exhibiting artists had relatives who fought in WWII, many in Italy and some at Monte Cassino - a famous battle site where New Zealand soldiers are credited with making a big impression on locals.
The commemorative art exhibition has been organised by Italian-based New Zealand artist Kay de Lautour Scott as a way of passing on the message, from veterans of all nations, that war must end.
The ‘Legato’ exhibition - from 15 to 29 May - will be held in Cassino’s new public library as part of the library’s official opening, and marking the anniversary of the battle.
Legato means intertwined, like strands of rope, giving it strength, de Lautour Scott said.
"The legacy of war is part of our common heritage. Now it is our task to make a lasting peace the focus of that heritage," de Lautour Scott said.
"Kiwis are held in high regard around here. They are remembered for feeding the children, providing clothing, stealing army blankets for the cold."
Monte Cassino connections
Artists with a Monte Cassino connection were given first preference for the exhibition, and many had grandparents or other close family members involved in the battle.
Two Auckland artists, both from Browns Bay, Sophia Elise and Gayle Boyle, are among those exhibiting in Italy.
Elise, who is manager of the New Zealand Art Guild which has helped organise the show, is planning to travel to Cassino along with 11 other New Zealand artists, to attend the exhibition.
Elise said she was looking forward to seeing first-hand the area that had had such a major impact on so many Kiwi families and lives.
The event would be a great opportunity to showcase both the beauty and diversity of New Zealand art and spread the bigger message of world peace, Elise said.
Artist Sue McPhee, from Balclutha in the South Island, has submitted a work entitled 'Try to remember everything'.
McPhee said her mixed-media collage was inspired by her husband’s uncle. Private James Landreth was killed in action in Rimini, Italy, in 1944, and is buried in the Cesena War Cemetery in Forli, Italy.
The collage incorporates New Zealand and Italian imagery, with a totara tree in an Italian landscape. Totara is revered by New Zealand Māori for its long-lasting quality.
A conversation between a WWII veteran and Auckland artist Merv Appleton inspired one artwork destined for the Italian exhibition, and a second piece that has become a special gift.
Wattie McEwan returned home as a decorated hero. But, he has forever regretted that having survived a desert battle himself, he had to leave his dead brother behind - as so many others had to do.
Appleton said that retaining relations with Italy was extremely important for all those who had lost loved ones in battles there.
"If they had a choice they would have two requests from us; one is do not forget us, the other would be to take us home. The best we can do is retain relations with Italy so that we are welcome to go back and see them," he said.
The 91-year-old veteran who shared his story with Appleton was greatly disappointed that he hadn’t been able to get a photo or sketch of his brother’s grave to bring back to the family.
After completing his works for the exhibition, Appleton decided to create the photo or sketch that McEwan had missed out on all those years ago.
The 41 New Zealand artists who will exhibit at the Legato exhibition say it is an "absolute privilege" to have their work accepted for the special event in Italy.
New Zealand ambassador to Rome Laurie Markes will visit the exhibition on 17 May.
Legato Exhibition on Facebook
These topics may also be of interest to you