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George Gittoes

Australian, born 1949

George Gittoes was born in Brighton-Le-Sands in 1949. His experiments with art and photography, film and theatre have been rewarded with many prizes since his Fishers Ghost art prize for Rainbow Way in 1974 and include the Wynne Prize from the Art Gallery of New South Wales in 1993 and the Blake Prize for Religious Art in 1992 and again in 1995. The latter was based on an event he witnessed in Rwanda and is featured on the cover of RWANDA, The Australian Contingent 1994 - 1995 - a book featuring the work of five Australian photographers (George is one) and depicting Australia's involvement in the 1994 - 95 United Nations aid mission in Rwanda.

In 1993 was the commissioned peace keeping artist (not war artist as is most common) to the Australian Army and travelled to Somalia and Cambodia. His study for the museum comes from this trip to Somalia - Operation Solace, based on the 1st Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment, with the support of HMAS TOBRUK and HMAS JERVIS BAY carrying major equipment and relief supplies. In 1994 he went to the Western Sahara, Algeria, the Sinai, Israel and Southern Lebanon with our Forces. 1995 saw him in Rwanda, Mozambique and South Africa. In each case he has worked and lived with the Australian peacekeepers, going on patrol and being with them during their on duty and off duty times. April and May of this year saw Gittoes travelling to Bosnia where he documented the conflict and hopeful resolution.

Gittoes sees the Australian soldier as an ordinary but compassionate person caught up in the horrific events of civil war, disease, starvation and death.His paintings can be seen as history paintings recording the events of the day-some of the most important events of the late 20th century. Reading extracts from his drawing and journal notations plainly shows the horrors of the human experience in these countries of crisis.Of his trip to Somaliain 1993 he writes of his first impression of Mogadishu 'It was a Mad Max world they had made' - referring to the film Mad Max II and it's imagery of desolation and barbarism.

David Hewetson, international Chairman of African Enterprise sums up the essence of George Gittoes and his recent art works- 'His works speak eloquently of faith and courage in some of the saddest times and places in the world today'.