An impressive mural was created by artist Jade Oakley to honour the memory of the original six Diggers who began the Harbord Diggers club near Freshwater beach. The Diggers are immortalised on the Memorial artwork in the form of six poppies – representative of the poppy fields of France where their friendships were forged.
The mural was recently installed at the entry of the newly renovated Harbord Diggers venue. Produced in partnership with Oakley, the artwork features a glowing perforated brass background to represent the sea and the sand of Freshwater beach. The flickering light of the concealed flames within each poppy are a reminder of the eternal flame, and the poppies appear to ‘grow’ from a reflective pool lined with dark granite below. The words ‘Courage, Sacrifice, Endurance and Mateship’ are carved in 20mm thick black stone and pinned to the wet edge of the pool.
Each poppy has been hand-beaten from 3mm mild steel by artistic blacksmiths Lok Sutherland and Chris Sulis, with the marks of the hammer still evident on the metal surface. The poppies are kinetic; each poppy is balanced on a hidden hook and bobs and dances when the Southerly blows in off the sea, much like real poppies in a field.
The fire element (as dictated by Feng Shui for the site) is achieved through the warmth of the polished Axolotl copper surface and the flame lights flickering within the poppies as well as the glowing perforated background, reflected in the water. The wet edge of the pool creates a very calm experience through sound and a sense of flow and movement. The meditative space is appropriate to pause and remember the Diggers.
When the artwork was commissioned to Jade Oakley, she was asked if anyone in her family had fought in a war and what kind of memorial she would make for them. This question was important because the client wanted an intensely personal response from her to the creation of a War Memorial at the new Harbord Diggers. The work needed to be more than symbolic; it needed to tell the particular narrative of Harbord’s original Diggers.
Incidentally, Oakley’s grandfather was a surgeon on the Kokoda Track in WW2. He had performed an emergency surgery on a young soldier who had a part of his skull shot off. He beat a shilling to create a temporary plate to seal the man’s skull. The thought that she would have hand-beaten a shilling into a large flat disc for her grandfather’s memorial underpinned the design of the Diggers’ Memorial.
AAP project managed the Memorial artwork and worked closely with Oakley throughout development, design, fabrication and installation, from digitising Oakley’s drawings of the sea’s perforations, through to exploring the materiality of the work.
Materials used to produce the artwork included Mild Steel, Copper, Brass, Plexiglass, Limestone and LED. The mural measured 12000mm W x 2550mm H with the poppies @ 800-1100mm in diameter. Publicart Works was the Art Consultant on the project.
Professional Photography: Carolyn Price