Castlemaine artist Clayton Tremlett's fascination with Anzac memorials will be transformed into an exhibition over the next year.
Tremlett has been offered grants to complete a topographical mapping of the faces of the 46 Anzac solider memorials scattered throughout Victoria.
His efforts on the project will form an exhibition titled Anzac Spirits.
Tremlett said the memorials, which are mostly in smaller regional towns, often tell a story of both the community and the soldiers being honoured.
"The public perception is that they're mass produced but I started looking at these characters being immortalised," he said. "Some sculptures were based on the Boer War sculptures.
"It is the hundredth centenary of the first memorial dedications from WWI. When Gallipoli happened and (towns) realised these volunteer soldiers weren't coming home, each community started fundraising for monuments.
When Gallipoli happened and (towns) realised these volunteer soldiers weren't coming home, each community started fundraising for monuments. Lots of smaller regional towns fundraised with no government support. They did it off their own bat.- Clayton Tremlett
"Lots of smaller regional towns fundraised with no government support. They did it off their own bat."
There are 40 marble and six bronze WWI Anzac sculptures across Victoria.
"Generally a majority of the dedications happened between 1920 and 1923," Tremlett said.
"Australia was only recently federated, so all the soldiers were volunteers. Estimates vary between 350,000 and 416,000 volunteers but because they were volunteers (families) couldn't bring (their bodies) home.
"So no-one was bought home and that's where the memorials began to come up."
"With the centenary (of the First World War), it's important to look at these monuments 100 years later.
Tremlett said the more Anzac memorials he saw in his travels, the more fascinated he became.
"When I travel around, which I do a bit because my son plays soccer, I noticed the Anzac memorials and started looking at their faces," Tremlett said. "I was fascinated at how some are unique.
"Art in recent years has had a distinct focus on portraiture but I thought it would be worthwhile to document the faces.
"People photograph monuments but not the faces. It is a way of archiving what's there."
Tremlett said the quality of the monuments often showed the wealth of a small town or community.
"Benalla was quite wealthy and was likely (marble) shipped from Italy but the Avenel one has eroded over time and is quite low-grade," he said.
"A few look the same but a majority are uniquely individual.
"Several depict the Digger as courageous, stoic or determined, while others present us with an image of doubt, regret and despair.
"When viewed collectively, this series elicits a powerful feeling of empathy."
Tremlett said some people would be surprised at the condition of some of Victoria's most-loved monuments.
"A nuance that this project explores relates to the characteristic erosion and degradation that has occurred in the hundred years since dedication," he said.
"In a subtle way I'm questioning how a significant a piece of history is being allowed to decay. It's an archive of what state the sculptures are in.
"Lots of the sculptures have an inverted rifle as symbol of respect and a lot of those have been broken, smashed and removed and replaced with replicas.
"Numurkah's has a bronze recast of the rifle and I wonder if it was because of a peace thing in the 1970s. That sort of thing is worthy of further study."
The chance to take on his topographical mapping of the memorials came after Tremlett was offered a $8500 grant from Regional Arts Victoria.
Last week, the state government also announced it offer the project a $21,758 grant through the Soldiers Memorial Institute Military Museum in Bendigo.
"We must never forget the service of our veterans-they are the reason we enjoy the freedoms we do today," Member for Bendigo East said.
Eighty-four projects will share among $1.4 million of state government grants that aim to support veterans.
"This funding will be a great help for these organisations that do amazing work supporting our veterans," Member for Bendigo West Maree Edwards said.
It is the first time Tremlett has received funding to focus on a project like this.
"I've never had funding to do an art project before and I have been making art for about 35 or 40 years, so it is a big step forward," Tremlett said.
"So far commitments (to show the exhibition) from Wangaratta and Central Goldfield art galleries and the Soldiers Memorial institute in Bendigo. I hope to to tour to other regional galleries in Victoria."
Tremlett arrived in more than a decade ago and teaches art at Castlemaine Secondary College.
"I grew up in Wangaratta but have liked Castlemaine as community for some time," he said.
The study and archiving of the monuments will begin in May next year with Tremlett preparing to do a great deal of research as well as bringing the faces to life.
"I am trying to figure out who they are modelled on," he said. "The perception in 2019 is to consider the Anzacs but I'm looking at how (they were) immortalised.
"Because I need to do a lot of research, I will be contacting RSLs for community contacts so when go to the sites I can also interview people who understand about the memorial.
"Some (people in the memorials) were definitely characters but others were just generated as images. A few look the same but majority are uniquely individual."
Tremlett plans to photograph the monuments and turn them into screen prints.
"I (plan to) transforming photos I'm taking into series of tonal screen prints. I'm more renowned for linocuts but there's a lot more tonal work with screen printing," he said.
"The project has a few arms. I am also documenting the condition the monuments are in but also looking at what is the Anzac Spirit and how was it symbolised."
For more information on Clayton Tremlett visit www.claytontremlett.com.au
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