Richard Lewer’s Kokoda: The Adventure of a Life Time references the war-time propa- ganda sold to Australian soldiers who embarked for New Guinea during the Second World War with a romanticised image of the deadly situation and extreme condi- tions they were to face. Informed by Lewer’s own recent experience of walking the Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea, Kokoda: The Adventure of a Lifetime, responds to this history and the Kokoda Track’s enduring legacy.
War has been a reoccurring subject in Lewer’s practice in recent years; embedded as it is in a fascination for tales of hardship, endurance and heroic tragedy. After win- ning the 2015 Albany Art Prize, Lewer was awarded a onemonth residency in Al- bany Western Australia from where more than 40,000 Australian and New Zealand service men and women departed 100 years ago for World War I. The residency provided the source material for a 2016 exhibition which combined local oral his- tories and diary entries. Lewer’s experience in Albany coincided with the invitation to make work for Sappers & Shrapnel, an Anzac Centenary Arts and Culture Fund project at the Art Gallery of South Australia.
Kokoda: The Adventure of a Lifetime continues Lewer’s rigorous investigation into the legacies of war. The exhibition is structured around the seven days Lewer took to complete the journey, and includes seven portraits of each of the local guides who assisted the artist and his team on the trek: two large seven-meter paintings – one representing a different aspect of the landscape on each day of the journey, the other responding to the history of the war – and a series of thirty-one drawings also responding to the history of the war. The project draws together contemporary and historical accounts of the Kokoda Track in order to understand it’s ongoing relevance.
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